CUTE at Somerset House

05.02.2024
Catherine Alfillé

CUTE at Somerset House

05.02.2024
Catherine Alfillé

Over the weekend, I visited the CUTE exhibition at Somerset House, which was a delightful escape from the grey streets of London. The exhibition features contemporary artworks, including new artistic commissions, as well as music, toys, fashion, video games, and social media. It aims to explore how the world has embraced the cultural phenomenon of cuteness.

The exhibition covers a range of topics, from Tim Berners-Lee’s answer of “kittens” when asked to name an internet use that surprised him, to the development of kawaii in Japan and the power of social media. However, the exhibition also aims to criticise the power of cuteness and its links to capitalism.

The exhibition is not just about fluffy interactive walls and illuminated rainbow arches. It is designed to make visitors uncomfortable as it explores the commodification of cuteness. Hello Kitty, the iconic symbol of cuteness, is presented in all her glory with a DJ set, dancefloor, and an array of questionable collectables as she celebrates her 50th birthday year.

German artist Cosima von Bonin’s work features a killer whale slumped against a wooden chair to prompt visitors to ask what toll late capitalism has taken on the creature’s life. The artist dresses up the whale in its consumerist fantasies, highlighting the impact of capitalism on the environment.

Artist Sean-Kierre Lyons’ gargoyle explores the paradox of cuteness, as it is often associated with opposing themes. In this case, the grotesque is brought together with the adorable, creating an interesting and thought-provoking piece of art.

CUTE at Somerset House. Until 14 April 2024.