Eddie Martinez in The Cuteness Factor
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.