Somerset House will be back with another landmark exhibition this January, and this time, it’s all about cuteness. Aptly named CUTE, the show will explore the complex power and potential of chubby-cheeked babies, doe-eyed animals and pastel-coloured motifs through a collection of contemporary artworks, new commissions and cultural phenomena. Plus, it’ll also celebrate the 50th anniversary of international icon Hello Kitty.

The exhibition will open with an ode to cats (making it the mortal enemy of the Wallace Collection’s Portraits of Dogs), retracing their path to newsfeed domination starting with a shift in the late 19th century that came with the work of artists such as Harry Pointer Louis Wain. CUTE will also spotlight kawaii culture through artefacts rarely exhibited in the UK, such as printed materials, figurines, illustrated handkerchiefs and sketchbooks, from the archive of the Yayoi Museum in Tokyo. And the show will touch on the darker side of cute imagery, looking at how the tone was changed by musicians and bands such as Jun Togowa, Hole and Babes in Toyland.

Marking half a decade of global influence, CUTE will have a section dedicated entirely to Hello Kitty. This immersive environment will have a plushie space (made with the help of super fan Amy-Louise Allen’s personal collection), as well as a Hello Kitty disco, complete with a mirror ball and curated playlist of 60s, 70s and 80s pop and disco hits. There’ll be lots else to see, from installations featuring music videos from Charli XCX to an arcade where you can play the likes of Calico and Froggy Pot. If you’re prone to the January blues, it sounds like Somerset House’s cuteness overload could just be the cure.

Opens Thurs 25th January 2024
Strand, London WC2R 1LA