THE CUTENESS FACTOR
Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary
23 June—12 November 2023
The museum’s new temporary exhibition will explore the theme of cuteness, a current phenomenon in contemporary art that is attracting increasing professional interest.
Cuteness first appeared in paintings and prints in Japan during the Edo period (17th–19th centuries). It then became popular in the 1970s with the rise of kawaii (the Japanese word for cute), a cultural phenomenon that permeated all aspects of life, and gradually spread throughout the world. Today, cuteness can also be seen as a global visual trend, with distinctive elements originating from the visual world of pop culture (e.g. manga and anime, cartoons and video games).
Today, we are witnessing the universality and widespread presence of “cuteness”. Alongside social media posts, emojis and gifs, this aesthetic is reflected in a multitude of logos, advertisements and anthropomorphised objects.
What is the source of its enduring popularity? What social processes or crises does its increased presence reflect? How does contemporary art relate to this visual phenomenon, and what potential or danger does it represent? These questions are not only of concern to professionals, but may also be important for the viewer to answer.
The aesthetics of cuteness has also influenced contemporary visual artists due to the large amount of visual, mainly digital, content in constant circulation. The conditions offered by social media, and determined by the necessity of technology (square aesthetics), blur the boundaries between art and commodity, between self-expression and material gain (e.g. influencers), and thus public and private life often become inextricably intertwined . At the same time, the fact that cuteness in contemporary art draws much of its inspiration from visual means of expression that do not belong to high art but to comics, cartoons and video games, further reinforces the decentralised nature of contemporary culture as a phenomenon.
The exhibition The Cuteness Factor is the first major presentation of the theme in Hungary and in the region. The exhibition features 32 artists from 14 countries, including internationally renowned contemporary artists as well as young artists from Hungary and the region.
Curators: MAJ Ajna, Jan ELANTKOWSKI
Katherine BERNHARDT, Cosima von BONIN, BOZÓ Szabolcs, Jon BURGERMAN, Paul CHAN, Maja DJORDJEVIC, Philip EMDE, FISCHER Judit, Max FREUND, GALLOV Péter, GELITIN, Antwan HORFEE, Ben JONES, Teppei KANEUJI, Misaki KAWAI, Austin LEE, Martin LUKÁČ, Markéta MAGIDOVÁ, MAKAI Mira, Eddie MARTINEZ, Annette MESSAGER, Takashi MURAKAMI, Robert NAVA, Anne NEUKAMP, Joakim OJANEN, Joyce PENSATO, Mario PICARDO, Paola PIVI, Hunter POTTER, Mika ROTTENBERG, TÓTH Balázs Máté, Felix TREADWELL
Photo by David Biro