They’re Done With YouTube. Now Cats Storm the Art-World
Their videos dominate the internet. Next, galleries are in their sights. A new cat-themed art show in LA has over seventy works by artists including Shepard Fairey and Tracey Emin.
Cats: they’ve officially taken over.
Just when you thought it was safe to browse the internet without running into another article on what our feline houseguests really think or getting trapped in a YouTube cat-hole, we’ve got one more way for you to distract yourself: a cat-themed art show.
That’s right, folks—an entire art exhibition all about felines has landed in Los Angeles.
Capitalizing on the unendingly-popular cat craze, Susan Michals—the exhibition curator—said she made sure to avoid the novelty aspect of kitschy cat material and keep their influence strictly inspirational: cats as muses, allowing each artist to depict their own work of art based on the animals’ “unpredictable personalities, and the beautiful traits of their physicality” in various types of mediums including painting, photography, and sculpture.
Michals was originally undertaking a collaboration project with a friend to create a central place on the web for all things cat inspired—art, videos, etc.—aiming to hit major cat showcases and competitions, like Meet the Breeds, to “create something like Best in Show, but with cats.”
The project fell through, so Michals brought the idea into her professional life as an art and cultural journalist. “I decided to reach out to a few artists and gallerists I know and see if I could get them involved,” Michals told The Daily Beast. Before she knew it, she had enlisted forty artists and the list kept growing.
Shepard Fairey, the artist behind the famous Obama “HOPE” poster—was one of the first to sign on to the project. Staying with his propaganda style, Fairey chose to portray a political black cat as a member of the Black Panther Party. The feline sports the traditional black turtleneck and jacket of the political group while the background is comprised of various news clippings from the race wars of the civil rights movement.
FAILE’s piece was inspired by the idea of “lost cat” flyers so often seen on street signs and building walls. The final product is an appropriately “salmon” colored quilt. “We thought of older ladies that really love their cats and this lead to scrapbooking, quilting and somehow modern witches in motorcycle clubs,” the Brooklyn-based duo Patrick McNeil and Patrick Mille that form FAILE said in a statement. The various woven flyer-like images along with a multitude of slogans such as ‘GUNS BULLETS BALLET’ and ‘TEASIN’ + PLEASIN” turn the quilt into a cult symbol of outlaw kittens.
Some of the works are even sentimental for the artists. Tracey Emin, one of the most famous members of the Young British Artists movement, for instance, is contributing a self-portrait of herself and her cat titled Me and Docket in the Style of Gerhard Richter. The print, taken in 2002, comes from an emotional time for the artist—Docket went missing. This made headlines due to the posters Emin put up in her London neighborhood, an act people mistook as an original work of art. The misunderstanding propelled the search and led to Docket’s return.
Other works include pieces by Marc Dennis, who is known for his hyperrealist paintings, photographer Frank Stefanko, and Christian Furr—the youngest artist to date to officially paint the Queen (he was commissioned for Queen Elizabeth II in 1995).
Michels was even able to enlist Daniel Salin, the set designer and producer for Banksy’s famous LA Barely Legal exhibition in 2006 which featured a live elephant that had been painted by the elusive street-artist. Michals admired the way Salin produced Barely Legal and thought he would be the perfect person to locate a space and layout for the show.
“The space will NOT look like a traditional gallery with fluorescent or bright light,” Michals emphasized. “We’re taking a completely different approach.” Instead of coldness of sparsely decorated stark white walls, the environment will seem more warm and intimate. Lights will be ambient, allowing for the artwork to be spotlighted drawing specific attention to each unique piece.
For Michals, a simple part-time project has now turned into the largest multi-artist exhibition of cat-inspired works for sale ever exhibited in one place. Of course, any passing cat would be totally bored by the whole thing.