Lolcats on their way to Tate.


31 Jan 2013 - Maria Kivimaa


It had to be checked out. The talk of the social media folks, the wet dream of internet anthropologists: the lolcat exhibition. Or, LOLcat – Teh Exhibishun – as the official version goes.

Nestled in Artefact Picture Framers‘ small gallery space in Bloomsbury it explores the phenomenon of internet’s biggest on-going meme, funny cats, through actual art by graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, animators, and writers.

The cat lady, curator Jenny Theolin of Soapbox&Sons, got the idea about a year ago, and what started out as a bit of a silly experiment soon turned into semi-serious in-depth investigation of the social and psychological side of the lolcat invasion. She chose this concept, because “it is something that truly resonates in today’s internet culture and is a contemporary method of communication”.

The first you get out of your visit there is amusement. There are some proper little gems, such as:



Shall you wish to delve deeper into sociological meanings, I’ll give you a simple starting point: just think of Andy Warhol and Campbell’s soup cans, or Roy Lichtenstein and comic books. The masters of popular art took something mundane and seemingly uncultivated, and created a whole new genre of what is now considered real art; the kind of art that is gawked at by Champagne-sipping, highbrow patrons at Tate.

Maybe lolcats are the equivalent of social media era pop art? Digging into the everyday life of ordinary people, the first layer of the great unwashed consciousness; what do these objects, cats or comic books, and their popularity say about us? Is it a bitter statement against the banality of our mainstream culture, or rather a celebration of it via art, the noblest form of communication? And does the journey from supermarket shelf or Facebook to the walls of an established gallery change the meaning of these banalities?

Or am I trying too hard (and without an art degree, in case you didn’t notice) to find an underlying cultural force here where there’s nothing more than mankind’s undying love for cute felines? All I know is that there’s soon also a café dedicated to them in East London. No comments on this.

The most expensive piece costs £2,100, most of the pieces selling at around £50-200. Half of the profit goes to Battersea Dogs&Cats Home. Can’t argue with that.