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White Center artist’s $3,500 sale of cat meme spotlights digital art market

The digital art market has given artists an opportunity to monetize their digital work.

SEATTLE — White Center digital artist Steve Ibsen made a meme of a dancing cat in 2004. In January 2021, Isben sold the meme for $3,500 as a non-fungible token, or NFT.

Ibsen said it's exciting to see artists find a way to monetize their digital work.

"Below that surface of all the confusion is just hundreds of thousands of artists that are coming together, collaborating and getting each other excited," said Ibsen. "It's really unique. It feels like being in a small gallery but with hundreds of thousands of people all just gushing about art."

Art, memes, even the first tweet has been sold online as an NFT. NFTs are a kind of certificate of authentication for original digital work. People are seeing them as an investment and, in some cases, collectors are spending millions on these tokens.

Most purchases are done by collectors who have digital currency, but the market is growing. Everett's Funko announced last week it will start offering content as NFTs in June. The announcement led to a 19% surge in company shares.

“Our strategy in this space is clear - bring the value-added NFT opportunity to our licensing partners to leverage our broad range of existing pop-culture content across television, movies, sports, music, anime, video games and comic books," said Brian Mariotti, chief executive officer of Funko. "Our amazing licensing partners are excited about our entry into this new digital space and we believe the diversity of our licensing portfolio sets us up for long-term success."

Ibsen is currently trying to sell a second NFT, a dancing cartoon of Senator Bernie Sanders wearing a face mask and the famous Inauguration Day mittens.