One of these cats is wax. One of these cats had an estimated net worth of $100 million.
One of these cats is wax. One of these cats had an estimated net worth of $100 million. Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for Getty Images for Madame Tussauds

Grumpy Cat is dead. The internet superstar, whose birth name was Tartar Sauce but was known internationally as Grumpy Cat, passed away at the tender age of 7 earlier this week. The news was broken this morning. She died from complications related to a UTI, her family reported on Twitter.

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I met Grumpy Cat once. I was assigned to her charge by the Walker Art Center, a contemporary art museum in Minneapolis that I worked for in the summer of 2013. She was brought to the museum for the Internet Cat Video Festival, an unexpectedly viral film fest devoted to cat videos. It was created by the Walker in 2012 sort of as a joke, and then over 10,000 people came to the inaugural festival. The museum could hardly fit that many people and the festival was soon moved to a stadium at the Minnesota State Fair, where they honored the fest by creating a cat sculpture out of butter. In case you are unfamiliar with midwestern prestige, attracting a crowd so large that it must move to the Minnesota State Fair is an achievement matched only by awards like the Pulitzers and Oscars. This attention is what brought Grumpy Cat to the museum the following year, and why I was assigned to guard her, like a Rothko or Ai Wei Wei. The arrival of Grumpy Cat signaled we were dealing with a whole new sort of phenomenon.

I have some notes on my time guarding the late star in a gallery within the museum:

  • I did not touch Grumpy Cat. I also did not take a picture with Grumpy Cat because that would have been unprofessional. Also, unimaginative. You do not take a selfie in front of a masterful work of art. You look at it. Consider its depth. Reflect on your own insignificance.

  • A crowd of, what I assume to have been, THOUSANDS was waiting to take a picture and, if they were lucky, pet the cat. Grumpy Cat sat on a plush pillow, in one of the finest contemporary art museums in America, and was considered with more intense attention than perhaps any artist who had been shown at the museum up to that point.

  • I don't think it's hyperbole to say that Grumpy Cat is the most celebrated work of art to have ever been featured at the Walker Art Museum.

  • Look, I can't prove anything, but I think she was on drugs. What fucking cat sits and gets touched by thousands of people? IMO, she was either a robot or on powerful kitty Xanax.

  • I have seen the world's most precious jewels in "The Vault" in London's Natural Museum of History, and nothing dazzled the eye or attracted attention like Grumpy Cat's scowl. It was a scowl that could amass a crowd of tens of thousands.

  • There are some eyes the world cannot forget. Bette Davis. Charles Manson. Grumpy Cat. Her eyes reflected the unintelligible and cosmic—the black hole of virality.

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  • I was once in a good yoga class that made me consider the nature of time. Mostly, I think I experienced heat exhaustion, but while in one of the poses, I considered that people had probably been doing that exact pose for a very long time, maybe thousands of years, or something, and that if I performed the pose in the right sequence or order that I could flatten time and feel the past and future in the present. "Touching time," if you will. I did not make this up. Civil war reenactors have talked about "touching time" when they perform a battle reenactment in an authentic and "true" way, whatever that means. I write all of this to suggest that while guarding Grumpy Cat, I believe I "touched time" and experienced an ancient civilization, maybe Egypt, where people worshipped cats and lined up in the thousands to be blessed by the divine feline.

  • I don't think she understood her net worth.

  • She did not meow. She did not run. She just scowled at the hordes of people, nearly in tears, coming to meet her, one after the other. Maybe, today, she is finally smiling.

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