Admit it: cats are spoiled. They sleep all day. They eat Fancy Feast. They don’t have a job. They only respond in monosyllables.
That’s what makes them the perfect metaphor for the idle rich and the unequal division of wealth in the U.S., according to Will Zweigart, who created the Tumblr “Ca$h Cats” in 2011 to showcase artistic interpretations of society’s “one purrrcent.”
On Sept. 6, the public will be able to enjoy the meme offline at a Ca$h Cat-inspired art exhibition in Brooklyn, sponsored by Tumblr and Forced Meme Productions (which organizes Internet-themed art shows). The exhibit organizers shared some of the artwork with TIME in advance of the show.
Just as people submit photos of “fat cats” (in both senses of the phrase) to the Ca$h Cats Tumblr, Zweigart sent out a call for entries in June soliciting artwork of cushy cats, some of which will be seen here for the first time. And you don’t have to be a fat cat to attend the one-night only show; it’s free of charge for the “99 purrrcent.”
Zweigart — also the brains behind the Sketchy Santa meme now owned by online empire Cheezburger — told NewsFeed that the purpose of the show is to take “something that’s popular and resonates with people online and bring it offline and let people interact with it in a different way. I always felt the photos belonged in a gallery setting.”
Zweigart sees Ca$h Cats as more than just a collection of cute cat photos. He thinks that the works entered for consideration for the exhibit say a lot about public perception of what it means to be wealthy and how the rich behave. “I started to get more and more submissions that almost emulated what you might see in a hip-hop video — power signifiers like cash everywhere, champagne, guns,” he says. “I didn’t ask for any of that, but that’s what people interpreted when they thought of rich cats. That’s what they think of when they think of power, money and class.”
Cats, on the other hand, are totally oblivious to money — which is what makes the meme so funny.
“Cats don’t have any need for money, but they’re waited on hand and foot every day,” Zweigart said. “What does money really mean in their world when they have it all?”
Now that we’re in an election year, the show is especially relevant, he argues: “None of the cats featured in this show have paid any taxes.” Click through to see some of the Ca$h Cats artwork on display.
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