Three days after announcing “viral artist” Pink Cat would attend as a special guest, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival has “rescinding its invitation” to the Instagram cartoonist, citing code of conduct violations and “concerns expressed by the comics community.”
Those concerns were raised almost instantly when TCAF announced its second round of guests for their 2022 show, which is scheduled for June 17-19. Their tweet announcing Pink Cat received more than 460 responses, compared to the two or three their tweets about other guests received at the same time.
Much of the backlash centered on Pink Cat’s involvement with NFTs, while others pointed out transphobic and racist remarks made in the past. There were also allegations of plagiarism and tracing other people’s art.
Pink Cat’s bio on the TCAF website reads: Pink Cat is a Middle Eastern American viral artist born on web 2 and based in Richmond, CA. A classically trained designer from Parsons School of Design, she has amassed a quarter million followers on Instagram, 90% women ages 18-35, by posting her comics every day on social media since 2016. After publishing her first comic book Don’t Care Didn’t Ask Plus I’m Baby, she was featured in the LA Times twice. She is currently selling a generative NFT collection, merch, and self producing an animated series based on her character.
“TCAF initially extended a programming invitation to Moeel on the basis of their daily digital comics work on Instagram, and the personal importance that work had to one of our team members,” Their statement says. “At the time of this invitation, the organization was unaware of Moeel’s online conduct, plagiarism, or allegations of tracing. We apologize for programming and promoting this artist.
“We made a mistake. As a promise to our community, we will use this as a learning moment as we move forward as an organization, and will re-examine the checks and balances we currently use to process our programming decisions.”
In a statement to Polygon, Pink Cat said:
Yeah these guys invited me to disinvite me. They payed flight hotel etc, i didnt even know who they were. Very weird
This isn’t my world, I’m a real life artist I don’t care about organizations or trade shows, I have my own following it’s not a cult following it’s mainstream. The LA times called me the Gen Z Garfield, we aren’t in the same league.
Here’s the L.A. Times article being referenced, which, ironically, features artwork she’s been accused of plagiarizing.
“We are very proud of the line-up of artists and exhibitors we have gathered for this year’s festival, and it is our sincere hope that this error on our part does not overshadow the hard work of our team, our other guests, and our exhibitors,” TCAF said at the end of their statement.