Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lucky Kitty

Acrylic on gessoed birch panel, 12 x 12''
painting #227, 2015

This past November, I was invited to submit an entry in the 2015 International Artist Grand Prize Competition hosted by the organizers of A.R.T. Revolution Taipei, the premier spring Art Fair in Taiwan. One of the requirements was that the painting should reflect the Asian art market. I immediately mentioned this to my son Jean-Luc. He asked me, ''What would you paint?''. I said, ''Maybe something with Hello Kitty in the composition''. He then pulls out his iPhone and shows me a photo that his friend Matthieu had just sent him. Matthieu had left for Asia the previous day and was backpacking through several east Asian countries. ''Check this out'' he said. ''Matthieu had a connecting flight in Taipei and sent me a picture of a Hello Kitty Store located at the airport terminal''. I had purchased this Lucky Stars Candy tin featuring Hello Kitty about 2 years ago as a possible prop for a painting. With Hello Kitty celebrating her 40th Birthday that same month, it seemed like perfect timing to shine some light of this iconic animated character. 

Hello Kitty is a white Japanese bobtail cat with a red bow created by Yuko Shimizu. The character first appeared on a vinyl coin purse in 1974 in Japan and was introduced in the United States two years later. The target audience was primarily for young girls but it has become equally popular with woman.  I probably started noticing Hello Kitty on various products about a decade ago. Now a day, it is probably impossible to enter any department store that does not feature this famous feline on a variety of consumer goods. Hello Kitty is owned by the Japanese company Sanrio . Without doing any advertisement, Hello Kitty has become a cultural phenomenon and a pop culture icon across the globe but especially in Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and many Asian countries. She has received the exclusive title of UNICEF Special Friend of Children. Singers Lady Gaga has posed in Kitty fashion and Avril Lavigne featured a SONG on her self-titled fifth studio album. The video has enjoyed more than 73 million views on VEVO.  

Hello Kitty currently appears on an astounding 50,000 plus products distributed in 60 countries. You'd be hard pressed not to find it on any random products. Just Google anything with Hello Kitty and it is bound to exist. Anything you can dream of or imagine, from coloring books, pencil cases, popsicles, t-shirts, dresses, porcelain figurines, cookie jars, bed linen, bedroom furniture, credit card, condoms, ironing boards, microwave ovens, electric fans, toasters, lawnmowers, motor oil, video games to even houses, cars, trains, planes, house cafés, restaurants, theme parks and maternity hospital where the nurses' uniforms features Hello Kitty. It has become a 7 billion dollar /year empire. Click on this LINK for some mind-boggling samples. 

On January 31, I received the news that ''Lucky Kitty'' was selected among 90 finalists from an estimated 4,033 pieces of art created and submitted by artists from 78 countries for the 2015 International Artist Grand Prize Competition for A.R.T. revolution Taipei, Taiwan to be held in Hall 3 at the Taipei World Trade Center from May 5 to 11, 2015 (including previews). Attendance at last year's event attracted more than 25,000 visitors. I will be the sole representative for Canada. Click HERE for a preview of the finalists and HERE for a link to a video of this grand event.

Update - Event photos (May 11, 2015)