Petra Collins Creates a Girly Room for Refinery29 Anniversary Exhibition

The show is replete with ponies, glittery cake, and used underwear.

The Girl's Room.
Photo: Christie Chu.

“We release you into the fun house,” Piera Gelardi, creative director of lifestyle media site, Refinery29, told the press as we followed her into the 29 funky “interactive and immersive” room installations the company set up in a gigantic Brooklyn warehouse for its fashion week festivities and celebration of its 10th anniversary.

29Rooms, the largest offsite event the company has done so far, is the brainchild of Gelardi; she proclaimed it her “personal heaven” several times throughout the tour and we could totally imagine it. The creative director, complete with a nose ring, dyed hair and a gung-ho attitude embodied the spirit of a cheerleader. Gelardi told artnet News Refinery29’s audience comes to their site for different reasons, be it news or life advice (they have 25 million visitors a month). But they also “crave experiences, and we wanted to give people a gift.”

The gift, 29Rooms, is a collaboration with several “innovators” including artist Petra Collins, photographer Danielle Levitt, make-up artist Charlotte Tillbury, and Solange Knowles’s new collaborative effort, Saint Heron, under her record label, Saint Records. Brand partners were clearly visible as well; Nordstrom Rack, Fossil, and PUMA, among others, had dedicated rooms. Below take a tour of some of the technicolor rooms that will slap you back to the 1990s glory days of Lisa Frank, Friends, Tamagotchi, and Pogs.

Art In The Dark room. Photo: Christie Chu.

Art In The Dark room.
Photo: Christie Chu.

1. “Art in the Dark”
This room is presented as a “silent rave” featuring black lights, feathers, and would be street art of smiley faces and psychedelic images by self-proclaimed “professional doodler” Hattie Stewart. The music, picked out by Jay Z’s new streaming service Tidal, which sounded like generic EDM, played in wireless headphones that guests could freely put on. Surprisingly, many of my fellow tourists put the headphones on and shimmied their way into the space.

Virtual Vacation room. Photo: Christie Chu.

Virtual Vacation room.
Photo: Christie Chu.

2. “Virtual Vacation” 
This sparse room, which was inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001 Space Odyssey, didn’t have the virtual 3D sets in them yet. But Gelardi said the tech headgear will transport guests to Tulum, Berlin, and New Orleans. Visitors will be able to make shrimp boil and dance in New Orleans or ambitious ones could try doing yoga in Tulum.

Creative Director Piera Geldardi in the Minnie Style room. Photo: Christie Chu.

Creative Director Piera Geldardi in the Minnie Style room.
Photo: Christie Chu.

3. “Minnie Style”
When you enter this room get ready to hear “Ooohs” and “aaahs.” Who still loves Disney and its iconic character Minnie Mouse? Apparently, a lot of people. No one hesitated to grab a head and handbag prop to pose for pictures. Of course in the true spirit of fashion, someone told Gelardi her outfit “perfectly matches the room!”

The hallway. Photo: Christie Chu.

The hallway.
Photo: Christie Chu.

4. The hallway
While not a room, per se, the hallway of 29Rooms is especially groovy. Imagine your high school hallway if it had been sugar-bombed by Miley Cyrus.

Flower Powered Room. Photo: Christie Chu.

Flower Powered Room.
Photo: Christie Chu.

5. “Flower Powered”
Inside this room, where everyone proceeded to take many pictures to edit later for Instagram (which happened in almost every room), Gelardi told the group, lighting was something her team looked at carefully so each visitor could craft aesthetically pleasing visual and shareable images for social media. Hey, if a dress made out of succulents, cacti, and live flowers against an iridescent background doesn’t get you north of 100 likes on Instagram, I don’t know what will.

The Youth: Danielle Levitt. Photo: Christie Chu.

The Youth: Danielle Levitt.
Photo: Christie Chu.

6. “The Youth”
This room played a quasi exhibition space for photographer Danielle Levitt. The entire floor and all walls were covered by collages and TV monitors looping videos of teens talking about gender and identity issues. Her work, heavily geared towards fashion and youth culture, definitely had a Ryan McGinley-esque vibe. “Everything from the 90s is new again,” Gelardi told artnet News. “Issues of gender fluidity is a thing, which is funny because that’s how I grew up anyways.”

The Hairousel. Photo: Christie Chu.

The Hairousel.
Photo: Christie Chu.

7. “Hairousel”
Unicorns are real. At least that’s what every toddler girl thought when she played with her My Little Pony in the 90s. Here, we have “Hairousel,” an installation with 2D horse-shaped wood cut-outs affixed with colorful hair extensions—a dedication to a trend that seems to be pervasive with the fashion crowd these days.

The Girl's Room. Photo: Christie Chu.

The Girl’s Room.
Photo: Christie Chu.

8. “The Girls’ Room”
Artist Petra Collins created a dreamy teen bathroom, “The Girls’ Room,” complete with a pastel pink bathtub, used underwear, slippers, nail polish, and every single female toiletry you could think of stocked in the shelves. What really was striking was how perfectly staged everything was, from the purple bubble bath to the smoke machine that inspired comments like, “she’s my favorite” and “she’s incredible.”

Sound in the Cloud room. Photo: Christie Chu.

Sound in the Cloud room.
Photo: Christie Chu.

9. “Sound in the Clouds”
In this room, Saint Heron, Solange Knowles’ new collaborative effort with 10 other artists, “curated” a selection of music that played from speakers inside massive physical clouds that hung from ceilings in a room painted sky blue. You could literally have your head in the clouds for a brief unadulterated moment.

Sweet Tooth room. Photo: Christie Chu.

Sweet Tooth room.
Photo: Christie Chu.

10. “Sweet Tooth”
Perhaps the most jubilant participant of the day was baker and florist Amirah Kassem, who dressed to match her rainbow-colored installation “Sweet Tooth,” a stark white room filled with fake cakes that paid homage to childhood objects. The wide-eyed confectioner is the owner of Flour Shop, a one-stop shop for the most ridiculous and fun cakes made to look like savory treats like burgers, movie popcorn, and Chinese food takeout. Kassem once presented Takashi Murakami with his very own flower smile icon made out of gumballs. When a few of the guests were standing around the cakes in admiration, Kassem said what was on everyone’s mind, “I wish they were real.” So did we, girl, so did we.

29Rooms is open to the public at 15 Huron Street, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, September 11 and September 12 from 12 to 8pm.

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