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Internet Culture Meets Cat Media

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  • Internet Culture Meets Cat Media

    At an exhibition space in Dumbo last week, 33-year-old social media consultant Will Zweigart stood in front of a photograph of a cat sitting on a pile of cash (estimated to be about $3 million), musing on the popularity of online photographs of cats.

    Mr. Zweigart, an expert in this field, is the man behind Ca$, a website that primarily publishes reader-submitted photographs of cats lying on and around large amounts of cash.
    he evening, hosted by the social media site Tumblr, marked the first benefit exhibition for Ca$

    "We had to cap the guest list at 900," said Mr. Zweigart, peering around a room packed with young Internet-culture enthusiasts sipping beer and mead provided by Lost Tribes Brew. ("We provide drinks for a lot of Silicon Alley-type stuff," noted a server, dishing out cups of mead to partygoers curious about tasting the ancient beverage. "Plus, we love cats.")

    Proceeds from the benefit exhibition, which featured the work of 15 artists and a silent auction, went to the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition, a Williamsburg-based no-kill animal shelter. While several artists who created works in multiple media (drawings, paintings, sculptures) related to the conceit of cats with cash were in attendance, no one who had submitted photographs to the website was there.

    "Most of the photographers aren't, umm…New York-based," said Mr. Zweigart, uneasily, trying to explain their absence. But Mr. Zweigart soon admitted that many of the photographers who submit work to his website refuse to identify themselves, even to him.
    One artist happy to identify herself was Maggie Bard, a multimedia artist from Bed-Stuy, who created an enormous scratching pole, festooned with colorful fake mice, which she believed to be about 10 times the size of a conventional scratching pole. "If you were a real cash cat, a real baller, you would definitely have one of these," she declared confidently.

    Nic Rad, an artist based in Williamsburg, created the most expensive piece in the exhibition, a painting that ultimately sold for $500. The painting was a portrait of a decidedly blue-blooded cat, standing on its hind legs, smoking a pipe and carrying a book.

    "I thought to myself, 'What book would befit a wealthy cat? A self-made cat? A radical individualist? A feline objectivist? A cat of genius? A cat of distinction?'" said Mr. Rad, before pointing to the book in the cat's paw: "Catlas Shrugged."

    Divya Anantharaman, a taxidermy hobbyist and the girlfriend of Mr. Zweigert, made a taxidermy kitten for the show. Ms. Anantharaman was eager to explain the provenance of the kitten: "This guy emailed me saying, 'My kitten died and he's in the freezer! Can I mail him to you?' It was so sad—I love cats so much. I said he could mail it, so he froze it solid and overnighted it, the same way you ship gourmet sausages. The kitten's name was Sylvester," she said, gesturing toward the animal. It perched on a tiny velvet couch, forever reaching its paw toward a string of $100 bills hanging from the ceiling.