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New Art Exhibit Remembers Trashy Tabloid Culture of 2000s

The Brooklyn show highlights art inspired by the age when celebrity scandals and gossip reigned supreme

An acrylic painting by Laura Collins recreates a 2006 photo of stars Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton (THNK1994)
smithsonian.com

The 2000s were a golden age of reality television and celebrity tabloids, and in case you've already blocked it out of your memory, a new exhibit is looking back on the decade through art inspired by it.

“We feel it’s time to celebrate the icons of the aughts we all know and love as the rockstars they are,” write comedians and curators Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen in a description of the show, held at the duo's THNK1994 Museum. “Sure not all of them ‘played music’ but their music was the sound of a faceplant while exiting a Range Rover, a catchphrase created organically on a reality show, the beeping of a court enforced alcohol monitoring bracelet, the mixing of antibiotics with things you shouldn’t mix antibiotics with.”

Harkins and Olen got the idea for the museum two years ago and its name is a nod to their exhibit, a collection of art inspired by the infamous ice skating scandal involving Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan in 1994; a show that Soraya Nadia McDonald at the Washington Post noted occupied the "four-foot-wide hallway of a rented third-floor walk-up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn."

Subsequent exhibits have highlighted art inspired by a "Sex and the City" star and featured Laura Collins' series of paintings on the Olsen twins hiding from photographers. That latter exhibit led to a collaboration between Harkins and Olen and Matt James, the creator of the popular tabloid nostalgia blog popculturediedin2009, reports Bonnie Wertheim of the New York Times.

This latest exhibit, which opened July 28 and runs through September 10, is a collaboration between Harkins, Olen and James. On view in a 450-square-foot space in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, it draws deeply on the obsessive tabloid coverage of the celebrities and the scandals of the era, reports Wertheim. The exhibit's title, "Nicole Richie's 2007 Memorial Day BBQ," refers to a Beverly Hills party thrown by the reality TV star that caused a tabloid storm for its invitation, which among other things included the line "no girls over 100 pounds allowed in."

Viewers of the exhibit can flip through binders of tabloid clippings devoted to various stars of the era such as Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton, and look at artwork inspired by the era's zeitgeist. A painted skateboard shows Avril Lavigne in punk-inspired clothing, while knitted ankle monitors pay homage to Lohan being forced to wear one in 2010.

The exhibit is more than just art—readings and discussions at the museum are already helping people relive their favorite memories from the decade, Hilton Dresden of Out magazine reports.

"We just had a Britney Spears panel, and so many people came who we didn’t know, from all corners of New York," Olen tells Dresden. "It got emotional, like group therapy—people talked about what Britney meant to them, and how she helped them."

The curated experience is sure to be a shot of nostalgia for anyone missing the '00s—an era that may have just barely past but already feels foreign in the age of curated Instagram and Twitter accounts.

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