I have never watched Full House, can't afford to buy The Row, and don't know much about the Olsen twins except that they are billionaires and did not appear in Fuller House, another TV show I did not watch.
I had also never heard of Laura Collins, a Chicago artist whose paintings capture noteworthy events such as models falling and Real Housewives crying.
When I read about Olsen Twins Hiding from the Paparazzi, a pop up exhibit in an abandoned pediatrician’s office in Brooklyn hosted by the THNK1994 museum and featuring her work, I did not expect to be completely charmed.
The entrance was underwhelming and surprisingly hard to find. Once inside, Matt Harkins, one of the museum's founders, curators, event producers, docents, and museum ambassadors, jumped up from his seat and offered a big smile and firm handshake. His partner, Viviana Olen, had gone out for coffee; she returned shortly before my daughter Meredith arrived. She is equally cheery and shares Matt’s myriad roles. They are best friends and roommates who embrace a big, happy, zany, inclusive, and fun worldview. I'll bet they're great at a party and just as wonderful if you need help or support.
I asked if the Olsens had seen the show. "No," Matt said.
"You've gotten a fair amount of publicity and the concept is creative," I said. "I'll bet one of their team has been here and reported back. How could they not?"
"Well," he said. "The other day, we tweeted that we really wanted Frappuccinos. Thirty minutes later, two were couriered over. None of our friends have taken credit. It's a pretty expensive thing to just ...do. As far as I'm concerned, those Frappuccinos came from the twins. I will always believe that."
I do, too.
The whole experience is otherworldly, completely wacky and incredibly tactile. Former examination rooms have been transformed into various tributes to the twin’s lives and other nods to pop culture. Visitors can:
- watch new arrivals from behind a two-way mirror
- read old magazine articles about the twins
- peer into a room with bowls of cigarettes in tribute to Mary-Kate’s wedding reception
- answer a phone call with an invitation to appear on Fuller House
- make a Snapchat confession (best ones each day get special mention)
- take a selfie at the Kylie Jenner Selfie Station
Somehow the interactive elements of the exhibit do not distract from the appeal of the paintings, which replicate actual photos of the twins. A jungle theme display, created with green construction paper, serves as background to the pieces, which feel like higher quality art than the lighting and medical office would suggest. The juxtaposition works.
The paintings felt playful at first, especially the one of an Olsen twin hiding behind an Olsen twin near the start of the exhibit. By the time I’d reached the end of the hallway and the unrelenting scenes of one or both of them hiding their faces, I felt badly for the Olsens and other celebs tracked by the paparazzi. The girls, intentionally unnamed in the titles of the pieces, seemed hunted and haunted, unable to find a place of peace.
In case you’re interested, the paintings are almost all sold. I’m not surprised. They really are that good.
What does surprise me is that I'm still thinking about a temporary show that I attended on a lark with my daughter. We laughed, we confessed, we talked and are still talking about the price of celebrity and the ability of an artist and two museum curators who found a way to do something different and creative. I can't wait for their next show. #THNK1994