NEW YORK (NYTIMES)- On Friday night, visitors at the two-year-old THNK1994 Museum in Brooklyn sipped pink cocktails as they made their way through a new exhibition. The featured works included a portrait of Lindsay Lohan wearing a bikini and an ankle monitor, a sculpture made from prescription bottles and string lights, and binders of tabloid and magazine clippings.
Angel Emmanuel, 23, a stylist and textile designer from Brooklyn, flipped through the binder dedicated to his favourite star: Britney Spears.
"We were all a part of her experience," he said. "We were a part of her breakups, her and Justin's relationship, their denim moment, her cheating on him, them both making responses to it in their music. ... " He trailed off, his attention returning to the tear sheets. He was wearing an accessory once beloved by Spears and her sartorial acolytes: the Von Dutch trucker hat.
"Von Dutch is so iconic," Emmanuel said. "I wish I had a Juicy Couture velour suit on me." The show, Nicole Richie's 2007 Memorial Day BBQ, is named after a party Richie threw in Beverly Hills, the invitation to which reportedly imposed a weight limit ("No girls over 100 pounds allowed in"). Mischa Barton and Lohan were among the guests, and the party became tabloid fodder after Barton was rushed to the hospital for what her publicist said was a bad interaction of alcohol and antibiotics.
Despite its idiosyncratic reference point, the exhibition paints with a broad brush, examining the many night-life fixtures and scandal magnets of the early aughts. It is the museum's fourth exhibition, and the second in its current location: a 450-square-foot space in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Started by Viviana Rosales Olen, 30, and Matt Harkins, 29, in the Williamsburg apartment that they shared, the museum moved in the spring to its new space. Its inaugural exhibition, in Williamsburg, was based on the ESPN documentary The Price of Gold, about figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. (The museum's name stands for the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan 1994 Museum, with 1994 being the year Kerrigan was attacked just days before the Olympic trials.) Subsequent exhibitions have had a similar focus on niche pop cultural moments.
"That's why the Olsen Twins Hiding exhibit was centred around Mary-Kate's wedding where she had bowls and bowls of cigarettes," Harkins said. "And this spring we did one about this YouTube video of Kim Cattrall doing spoken-word poetry." Harkins and Olen develop the exhibitions' concepts, then tap a network of artist friends for interpretation. They asked the 19-year-old blogger behind Pop Culture Died in 2009 to help curate the current exhibition. (The blogger goes by the name Matt and refused to disclose his full name.) Many of the works are based on paparazzi photographs.
The sisters Abby and Beth Wischnia, both 27, who were visiting from California, saw the show as an ode to a time before Instagram made it possible for anyone to become an influencer, a time before cover lines competed with tweets. A time, in short, before pop culture died.
"I could not tell you the last time I bought a magazine," Beth Wischnia said. "Not even at the airport.