Last year, roommates Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen made international news when they turned the front hallway of their Williamsburg apartment into a tribute to figure skating’s most famous violence-connected duo, Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. The Tonya Harding & Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Museum began its life as a Kickstarter request for $75 to blow up pictures of each of the figure skaters, and wound up becoming the premier place in America outside of a Wikipedia hole to learn about the lives and rivalry of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, as well as a repository for fan art and memorabilia related to the two figure skaters.
We all love a sequel though, and just in time for the horror of Fuller House, Harkins and Olen are back with a new Kickstarter seeking funds to construct a new exhibit for their museum: The Olsen Twins Hiding From the Paparazzi. And per the terms of a sequel, the stakes are bigger (this Kickstarter has a funding goal of $9,500 and would involve renting out a storefront for two weeks,
at a location TBD. UPDATE 3/31: They reached the goal! See info about the location and address below) and the production values are higher (this year’s video comes with a fully built out miniature model of the planned museum). What’s the vision for the new exhibit and what does it have to do with Fuller House? We spoke with Harkins and Olen to find out.
Aside from moving away from a focus on Kerrigan and Harding, the driving force for a new exhibit under is a desire for more programming and events. The move to a larger space will help with that goal according to Olen since at the moment “we’re kind of limited now because we have only two chairs in the apartment.” The original hallway museum and this Olsens project is all part of their umbrella organization, the THNK1994 Museum.
UPDATE 3/31: The museum now has a location: 563 Grand St., an old doctor’s office, where it will be open from April 22nd until May 1. The space comes with a two-way mirror which they plan to integrate into the art.
On the Kickstarter, Harkins and Olen hold Mary Kate and Ashley up as “badass business women who facilitate their lives to be as inaccessible as possible” in an era where celebrity accessibility is king. So, the exhibit will center on the recent history of the two twins, and especially paintings from Chicago-based artist Laura Collins, who’s done an entire series of oil paintings based on pictures of the Olsens hiding their faces from the paparazzi.
While the centerpiece of the exhibit will be Collins’ oil paintings, there will be other Olsen-based ephemera for people to enjoy. Based on reports that the wedding centerpieces at Mary Kate Olsen’s wedding to Olivier Sarkozy were “bowls and bowls of cigarettes,” the museum exhibit will feature a table with plaster cast bowls of cigarettes. There’s also an oil painting in the works of the Olsens running from dinosaurs instead of the paparazzi, and in the exhibit’s sole nod to Fuller House, a phone in the corner will ring at random intervals and will be a call from someone asking you to appear on the show, which you can decline.
Despite the timing of the Kickstarter and the reboot of the mediocre 90s TV show, Harkin and Olen claim that the two aren’t connected. Harkins hasn’t watched the show, but said he’s amused by the way the Olsens gently turned it down. Olen, on the other hand, counted herself as a fan.
“I watched Fuller House and I don’t know if I was just starting my period or something but I cried every episode, I was very touched by it,” she said. “I think it’s a great show.”
So if the exhibit isn’t about Fuller House or 90s nostalgia, what’s the driving force behind it? Harkin and Olen are also including a number of reality TV aspects to the exhibit, to focus on what Olen called “the mid-aughts of celebutante culture.” So as the opposite of the Olsens, who are known for hiding from the paparazzi, there’ll be a Real Housewives-style confessional booth and a Kylie Jenner selfie station full of comically large Jenner objects like Starbucks cups and handbags. On the events side of things, there’s also plans for the storefront exhibit to host panel discussions on the Real Housewives series and an opportunity for you to learn about the exciting and baffling world of past life regression, which is apparently something rich people with TV shows spend their money learning about.
Of course, given that they’re already successful museum owners with one internationally famous hallway museum under their belts, we were curious why Harkin and Olen went back to Kickstarter instead of looking for art grants to fund their newest dream. For starters, Harkins told us that they got a cold reception from the museum world when they began reaching out to other cultural institutions after the original Harding/Kerrigan museum opened. Not that Harkins and Olen seemed to mind the cold shoulder from the art world.
“We consider this a museum with a lowercase ‘m,’ ” Olen said about the hallway full of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan pictures and memorabilia.
Harkins also saw Kickstarter as a way to spread the word more effectively.
“We were hopeful that by using the Kickstarter we’d connect with people, similar to last time, who were into the idea and exciting about making it into a reality.”
Beyond the promised rewards, which range from a postcard with a secret from Harkins or Olen on it to a custom-painted Laura Collins oil picture of a celebrity of your choice hiding from the paparazzi, the duo are also trying to involve people in the exhibit by promising Olen will find a picture of any person who donates and hide their face with emoji she thinks will fit their personality, like so:
— The THNK1994 Museum (@MattandViviana) February 29, 2016
Of course, the biggest question hanging over the fate of the exhibit is whether Harkins and Olen can tell Mary Kate and Ashley apart after spending so much time looking at pictures of the Olsen Twins.
“I’m getting pretty good at telling them apart. It’s hard to put into words how to tell them apart, but I’ve got like a 99 percent track record,” Harkins said, before adding “I think Mary-Kate’s eyes are just a little bit smaller or are set back a notch.”
Update 3/23: The Kickstarter funds will also be used to host a Sia-Cycle class, create a larger-than-life sculpture of a bowl filled with cigarettes, unlimited LaCroix seltzer and a party in April. Keep an eye on this page for details.
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