Meeting a celebrity in real life is always a risky proposition, but it’s a rite of passage for fans. Viviana Olen was just 7 when she met Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen — who turned out to be nothing like on TV.
“We waited in line for, like, three hours, and we just kind of passed by them and they looked so tired and so sad,” she recalls. “And I remember thinking as a kid, ‘This is bad, bad what I’m doing.’”
That “jarring” feeling returned when she came across Chicago-based artist Laura Collins’ paintings of the Olsen twins shielding their faces from the paparazzi. “Anybody today, whether you’re a performer or not, you always feel like you have to put everything out there just to exist. So it’s absolutely shocking when we can’t see things,” she says.
Olen and her comedian/roommate/co-curator Matt Harkins had found the follow-up to their tongue-in-cheek Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Museum: “It kind of continued the story as well because with the Tonya-Nancy thing, so much of that was the media reaction and how they were put in these boxes, how they couldn’t leave their house.”
A successful Kickstarter later, the Olsen Twins Hiding from the Paparazzi Museum opens on Friday, April 21, for two weeks in a former Williamsburg doctor’s office. To be clear: The exhibit is not about the Olsens. Their lives are “not for us,” Olen says. Though there is a memorabilia room, they’re making it “as creepy as we can.”
The events and art (contributions, including a glitter interpretation of Kylie Jenner’s aura have poured in since the project first made headlines) are all takes on how we interact with the celebrity world, from real people to reality TV.
You can confess secrets to Lisa Vanderpump’s portrait in 10-second Snapchats, take a selfie with your own twin in a mirrored photobooth and get academic at the Real Housewives Symposium (Olen and Harkins are both big fans, which she acknowledges is “completely the opposite” of the Olsens’ rejection of fame).
“We do these exhibits because they’re really really fun,” she says. “We’re adamant that if we’re making fun of anybody, we’re making fun of ourselves.”
The real joy of the museum for Olen will be meeting the people who come (admission is free!).
“The ‘90s was like a ‘High Fidelity’ kind of vibe where it was like, with record stores, ‘Oh, you don’t know this thing? You don’t love this thing?’ Some weird guy decided what’s cool,” she says.
Now there’s more to like, and it’s easier to find your tribe: “Celebrities are important to everyone,” Olen says. “It takes a really cynical person to think, ‘That’s stupid.’ People like what they like, and therefore it has value.”
THNK 1994: The Olsen Twins Hiding from the Paparazzi
April 22-May 1
563 Grand St., Brooklyn