In honor of the coming launch of The Row’s London brick-and-mortar, the world’s favorite willowy and camera-shy twins just gave one of their ultra-rare interviews to British Vogue. The feature is on newsstands now, but sadly, not available online. In the meantime, you can get some teasers from the W Magazine and Cools recaps. Sadly but not surprisingly, even once you’ve read the piece, there are many questions waiting to be answered. The Olsens are famous for a lot of things, but spilling all to the media is not one of them.
Perhaps their rare public appearances are calculated to reveal just enough to stoke the fire of our collective curiosity without ever satisfying it. You gotta hand it to them. In an age when over-sharing is the new black (jk, black will always be the new black, just look at MK and Ashley), in an age when Kylie Jenner posts half-hour Snapchat stories and no one bats a false eyelash, these fraternal (not identical!) publicity masterminds sure know what they’re doing.
So, to conduct some of our own Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley-inspired sleuthing, we turned to the thing we know best in this world: art. As MK and Ashley don’t have their own IG handles, one of the only available resources, other than numerous and dedicated fan accounts, is the Row’s brand IG.
While it’s not exactly a Tumblr filled with confessional poetry, if we read between the lines, we can still glean a little something about the brand ethos. And, by proxy, maybe even tease out something about the mysterious inner workings of the Olsen twins’ psyches. After all, even though it’s highly doubtful that the twins are personally posting any of this artwork, each post has to mesh with the brand’s overall identity, which they created and continue to sustain.
Lucky for all my fellow Olsen junkies, The Row credits all the artwork posted on its page, making it that much easier to use it to draw wildly speculative conclusions about the twins’ inner worlds. Without further ado, join me in a highly unscientific romp through The Row’s IG art.
Warning: the article that follows conforms to exactly zero journalistic standards, so take it with a few grains of salt—or, even better, with a few glasses of Côtes-du-Rhone rouge. Let’s go.
1) Marc Chagall, Aleko and Zemphira by Moonlight (1942)
Chagall is one of several artists that crops up repeatedly on the Row’s IG. This is actually pretty surprising, because at first glance, he doesn’t really seem to match their brand ethos. Chagall was all about whimsical, fairy-tale, primitivist compositions, while the Row has made a name for itself with clean, minimal basics. But could it be that the artist speaks to the Olsen’s soul on a level deeper than mere aesthetics?
Maybe, maybe not—but we’re rolling with it anyway. This couple seems to be traveling through a moonlit nighttime sky, alone in a universe of dreams and fantasies of their own making. Could the Olsen twins be closet romantics?
2) Georgia O’Keeffe, Train at Night in the Desert (1916)
Georgia O’Keeffe may be best known for her desert and flower (vagina) paintings, but that’s not all she did. Some social media intern must have had to really dig to find this obscure, magical work. Although O’Keeffe brings us back to earth and onto a train, this work follows roughly the same theme as the Chagall painting we just saw: a nighttime journey through mystical dreamscapes.
And what are we to make of this? Is this extreme storytelling branding suggesting that the Row’s high-end basics can transport us into a fantasy universe of our own design, or are the Olsens aiming for a higher sort of metaphor here? My take is that the twins, like O’Keeffe, probably, view life as a mysterious, ongoing journey. We’re all just moving through dark, ever-changing terrain, unsure of what is lurking beyond our narrow headlights. Shapes shift in the shadows, but if we can trust what O’Keeffe is suggesting here, instead of grim and terrifying, the Olsens prefer to view this inherent uncertainty as enchanting and exciting.
This whole darkness/mystique theme we’ve seen in these two paintings is totally in keeping with the Olsens’ default mode of public self-presentation. They float by on darkness and mystery, their intrigue resting on how little, not how much, they reveal. But there’s much more to it than that, as we’ll soon discover.
3) Max Ernst, Colombe Blanche (1925)
While most of the artists on the Row’s IG are repeat offenders, Max Ernst is a clear favorite. Again, this whole Dadaist/Surrealist thing seems to run totally counter to the Olsen’s meticulous, all-black, sober, pouty public image. There’s a tantalizing suggestion for those who choose to bite: could it be that the Olsens’ whole public façade is a carefully calculated bit of performance art? Whatever the case, as with surrealism, there is clearly much more lurking under the surface of the Olsens’ “prune” smile than what the eye—or the camera—sees.
And what about this white dove? Through the ages, white doves have been harbingers of peace—can we extrapolate that the Olsens are pacifists? Probably not—the twins have never been very political, to this author’s knowledge, at least—but it’s a nice thought. Perhaps the Olsen twins can be likened to Plato’s philosopher-king. They are the political leaders that we need, but not the ones we deserve. Still, not sure how MK’s husband, Olivier Sarkozy, the brother of the former French president who presided over France’s military intervention in Libya, would figure into this whole plan. But again, remember that we are in highly speculative territory here. Let’s keep moving.
4) Amadeo Modigliani, Tête de cariatide surmontée d’architecture (1913)
The bad boy painter of Paris at a time when Paris was overflowing with bad boys, Modigliani was infamous before he was famous. His first and only solo show was shut down before it even started by a group of policemen who found his nudes so shocking that they couldn’t allow Modigliani to corrupt the public with them. When he wasn’t painting the lowlifes of Montmartre or his teenage lovers, he could be found drinking, carousing and getting evicted from cheap rooms. So what could the elegant, squeaky-clean and distinctly bourgeois Olsen brand possibly want with this Italian rogue? The Row doesn’t exactly make clothes that would help you blend at your local blue-collar watering hole.
Perhaps, as their angsty/grungy fashion vibe portends, the Olsens fall into that age-old cliché of bored, upper-crust girls who long for the danger and romance of a more bohemian existence. After all, they have been famous for their entire lives, and extremely sheltered, though obviously not in the traditional way. Instead of being forbidden to attend sleepovers and horny school dance after-parties like those of us who grew up with run-of-the-mill strict parents, the Olsen twins were literally cut off from the carefree, ratchet shenanigans that the rest of us unfamous kids grew up taking for granted, like shoplifting from Hot Topic, or getting fingered behind some bleachers by a guy named Brad or Chad. It kind of makes you wonder: is there a part of Mary-Kate and Ashley that longs for the life they would’ve had if they hadn’t chosen hosting SNL over attending their high school prom?
But let’s move on to the subject of the drawing: the caryatid.
Unless you’re an antiquities specialist (or a generally highly educated person), you might have to Google it. I sure did. Here’s what Wikipedia tells us: a caryatid is a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar. She literally carries the weight of the world, or at least of a very heavy building, on her head.
A little bit like MK and Ashley? Like the caryatid, from a young age, they’ve been trapped under the weight of the edifice they were holding up. In their case, this weight was their own identities as celebrities. Heavy stuff for a little kid. It would make me feel sorry for them if they didn’t have such great hair. Still, they’ve handled it much more gracefully than many child stars, with no egregious “off the rails” moments immortalized in tabloids. Could it be that the graceful and strong figure of the caryatid who bears her burden with dignity—and looks bangin’ doing it—speaks to the Olsen twins as a symbol of inspiration?
But wait—there’s another catch! The caryatid is also related to the Greek goddess Artemis, goddess of the hunt, wilderness, the wilderness, the moon and Chastity. According to a Greek scholar (by way of Wikipedia), Artemis would join the “maidens of Karyai,” an ancient Greek town, “who in their ecstatic round-dance carried on their heads baskets of live reeds, as if they were dancing plants.”
Guess the Olsens secretly know how to let their Botticelli-meets-bedhead hair down after all.
5) Andy Warhol, Details of Renaissance Painting (Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus 1482) (1984)
Speaking of Botticelli… Oooof. Okay. We’re almost there. There’s so much to say about this one, though. Andy Warhol took one of the most recognizable images in Western art history and clicked three times on his iPhone home button. What are we supposed to make of this inverted masterpiece?
It sort of goes without saying that the Olsens are the antithesis of Warhol’s model of celebrity: famous not for 15 minutes but for their whole lives. But, again, once we get past the obvious disparities, we can start to tease out some similarities.
Warhol was famous for many things, but one of them was his ultra-curated public persona, his aloof, detached vibe and his heavy reliance on fashion to shape the public’s view of him. What would Andy be without his silver wig—and the Olsens without their all-black, oversized sunglasses and Starbucks cups? Not themselves, or at least not the selves that exist in the public imagination.
Both also understood the power of silence in an era of over-sharing. Perhaps partly covering up his shyness, Warhol would all but refuse to speak during interviews, giving one-word answer, hiding behind his image, his persona—or Edie Sedgwick. Similarly, the Olsens seem to fuel public fascination by refusing to over-share. or even share, limiting their contact with the press to the point where every appearance becomes an Event. It’s pretty funny; pretty much every headline that comes up when you search “Mary-Kate and Ashley interview” contains some form of “In a rare interview…”. And when they do talk, most of it is pretty cagey. ““I don’t know if it’s because of the way we grew up—we just don’t like talking about ourselves or talking about what we’re doing…. It’s not really our approach,” Ashley told Wall Street Journal in August 2018. Fair play.
And finally, Venus.
Do I really need to spell it out? Warhol’s piece modernized a canonical classic, taking the image of timeless beauty and giving it a contemporary twist. And does the Row, and MK and Ashley, for that matter, stand for if not a contemporary take on a timeless masterpiece? The Row’s whole shtick is contemporary and elegant basics, clothes that look modern but will age well, kind of like Botticelli. And, well, if some crazy scientist concocted cyborg hybrids mixed from Botticelli beauties, 50s movie stars, woodland nymphs and Twiggy with a dash of Kate Moss and Audrey Hepburn, who would explode from the test tube but MK and Ashley.
Is it any wonder we are all, this author included, a little too obsessed with them?
Text by Katya Lopatko
Images via @britishvogue, @therow.