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London gets ‘CUTE’: The exhibition about cuteness that you don't want to miss

Why an exhibition all about cuteness is already getting us excited
Why an exhibition all about cuteness is already getting us excited Copyright Graphic Thought Facility (1990, UK). Playing Dress Up With AI, 2023 / Louis Wain – Bethlem Museum of the Mind
Copyright Graphic Thought Facility (1990, UK). Playing Dress Up With AI, 2023 / Louis Wain – Bethlem Museum of the Mind
By David Mouriquand
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A landmark exhibit opens tomorrow in London, looking at toys, emojis, video games and more, to better explore how cuteness influences culture and society. And yes, cats are a main theme.

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“I don’t get cute, I get drop-dead gorgeous.”

Food for thought there from American drag performer and choreographer Alyssa Edwards, who might not be as excited as we are about the upcoming London exhibition that focuses less on gorgeousness and more on cuteness. Exclusively, in fact.

Indeed, if there’s one exhibit we here at Euronews Culture have been anticipating ever since it was announced late last year, it’s the new exhibition at Somerset House exploring how cuteness influences culture and society.

It’s simply – and appropriately - entitled ‘CUTE’, and opens tomorrow (Thursday 25 January).

Louis Wain
Louis WainBethlem Museum of the Mind
Ado Mizumori, I didnt do anything! (ca. 1965–75)
Ado Mizumori, I didnt do anything! (ca. 1965–75)Yayoi Museum

Curated by Claire Catterall, Senior Curator at Somerset House, the exhibition looks at everything from emojis to internet memes, video games to plushie toys and food, bringing contemporary artists together from a variety of disciplines to navigate our relationship to the adorable aesthetic.

‘CUTE’ promises to be “a landmark exhibition exploring the irresistible force of cuteness in contemporary culture” which will “examine the world’s embrace of cute culture and how it has become such an influential measure of our times.”

Contributing artists include Mike Kelley, Yumeji Takehisa, Aya Takano, Ado Mizumori, Juliana Huxtable, Wong Ping, Rachel Maclean, Ram Ham and more.

Karen Kilimnik, The cat sitting in its favorite basket out in the blizzard, the Himalaya, (2020)
Karen Kilimnik, The cat sitting in its favorite basket out in the blizzard, the Himalaya, (2020)Karen Kilimnik
Setsuko Tamura, Fancy Note notebook (ca. 1960-70s)
Setsuko Tamura, Fancy Note notebook (ca. 1960-70s)Yayoi Museum

One we’re particularly excited for is the immersive visual and sonic music installation by multidisciplinary artist Hannah Diamond. 

Inspired by a girl’s sleepover, featuring a curated collection of videos from the likes of SOPHIE, Charli XCX, A.G. Cook, GFOTY, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, felicita and more, as well as from Diamond herself, the artist brings her affirmative vision of hyper pink girlhood to showcase the best of the super cute electronic dance music.

Hannah Diamond, Affirmations.
Hannah Diamond, Affirmations.Courtesy of the artist
MSCHF Peeps of Willendorf, 2022 Glucose syrup, sugar, corn starch, dextrose, water, gelatin, citric acid, dl-malic acid, sodium citrate, food flavors, food colors
MSCHF Peeps of Willendorf, 2022 Glucose syrup, sugar, corn starch, dextrose, water, gelatin, citric acid, dl-malic acid, sodium citrate, food flavors, food colorsMSCHF
Cosima von Bonin, Killer Whale with Long Eyelashes I (Rhino Version) (2018)
Cosima von Bonin, Killer Whale with Long Eyelashes I (Rhino Version) (2018)The Artist and Petzel Gallery, New York.
Graphic Thought Facility (1990, UK). Playing Dress Up With AI, 2023
Graphic Thought Facility (1990, UK). Playing Dress Up With AI, 2023Graphic Thought Facility

As you can probably guess, cats will play an important role in ‘CUTE’, and Somerset, in partnership with Sanrio, will also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hello Kitty.

The ultimate cute icon for some; a waving agent of Kawaii with the cold dead eyes of a killer for others.

There is an entire section dedicated to Hello Kitty, featuring a display of Kitty through the ages, a dedicated plushie space, and a disco.

Yes, you read correctly. A disco. Bit of a faux pas, as we all know that cats prefer meow-tal, but it's a minor blip. We're still very excited. 

'CUTE' will be on display from 25 January until 14 April at the Somerset House.

(NB: This article was updated and originally published on 18 December 2023.)

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