The “Internet-Famous” Kaplan Twins Arrive in the Hamptons

JULY 9, 2018 5:54 PM

There were promotional T-shirts and tank tops handed out from the back of a van. There was a dub-heavy D.J. set, a gorgeous post-rainy-day sunset, and hordes of tanned partygoers living through the lens of their Instagram app. And at the fleshy pool party at the Montauk Beach House on Friday, billed as a Fourth of July weekend #takeover, were the almost-25-year-old “Internet-famous” Allie and Lexi Kaplan, better known as the Kaplan Twins.

The Kaplans, there with their show “I Only Summer in the Hamptons,” specialize in blown-up memes as oil paintings, shamelessly and perfectly tailored for Instagram, where the pair has 160,000 followers. One painting, priced at $7,500, pondered the proper pronunciation of LaCroix. (“It rhymes with enjoy,” said Allie with a smile while standing in the venue’s lobby-turned-gallery.) Another large-format work ($17,500) layered thick black text over a nicely rendered Wonder (Classic White) bread loaf that read: “Millennials are like gluten . . . nobody knows what they are . . . but people love to hate them.”

Born in Short Hills, New Jersey, the sisters graduated from N.Y.U. in 2015 with degrees in studio art, and have since decamped to Los Angeles. Their East Coast dealer, the delightfully bro-y Damien Roman, met them three years ago at Art Basel Miami Beach, when the sisters were strategically loitering in front of the Gagosian-Deitch figurative art collaboration, “Unrealism.” “They weren’t on the list, but they were meeting all the right people,” said Roman, a graduate of the School of Visual Arts, now 44, who shelved his own artistic ambitions to sell his schoolmates’ work down in the gritty L.E.S. back in ’96. “They’re wickedly clever. People think they’re very sweet, and they are, but they’re quite shrewd. They’re skewering a lot of these subjects. They’re totally sending it up.”

The Kaplans and Roman all seem quite aware that exhibiting the twins’ work within New York City proper’s contemporary-art Thunderdome would be a bit much at this stage of the game. “We’re not saying fuck the institution,” said Allie. “But we can present ourselves on social media and have fans our age appreciate the art and us,” added Lexi, seamlessly picking up the baton. “We’re giving them something they can touch. That’s what we want to change.”

Roman just showed their work in a booth at the Art Market fair in Bridgehampton and is currently also displaying it in a group show at his Hamptons gallery. In other words, within the proper context—like an insanely busy, sunny, horny Fourth of July weekend at a pricey, almost exclusively white, way post-hipster Montauk frosé wonderland—the Kaplan Twins and their work might just be an Insta-worthy blast.

Photos courtesy of Wil Weiss.

“Because of social media now, artists our age know it’s more than just the art on the wall,” said Lexi, or maybe it was Allie, though it’s difficult to tell, as the siren-like twins do more than just finish each other’s sentences. They often relay entire talking points simultaneously, creating an eerie but soothingly layered harmony. “We equate ourselves to musicians who put on a larger show beyond the music, like Lady Gaga. Her music and her artistry is the persona.”

In college, Allie spent a summer at Christie’s auction house and worked at Paul Kasmin Gallery for one and a half years. Lexi worked at the New Museum. Both spent time exploring the art scene in Berlin for a semester and can trade more than a few words in German, which they did over tacos late Friday evening. They’re not exactly oblivious to the rigorous demands of the “real” art world; they just prefer a happier world of their own creation.

“I see them as multi-disciplinary performance artists,” said Roman of the identical twins, who doctors claimed at birth were fraternal until a DNA test proved otherwise five years ago. (They celebrated over Champagne.) “Yes they make paintings, but these art happenings they’ve created, that’s art to me. It’s them expressing themselves in a fun, irreverent way, though not within the elitist definition of what art is or should be as far as the old guard is concerned.”

Wearing complementary Attico sequined caftans over bikinis, Allie and Lexi worked the room at the Montauk Beach House, as did their self-described “momager,” Amy Kaplan, who sold some work to some visiting finance lads from Newcastle, England, who flew in via helicopter from Manhattan. (Explaining that he didn’t haveto work exactly, as his family is immensely wealthy, one of them showed great interest in a striking eggplant-emoji painting featuring the text “Send Nudes.” He bought it.) The twins were happy to pose for endless photos with perfect strangers and old chums from Jersey, accompanied by their loyal Maltese, Bella.

“I think for us, what we’re doing is different because it’s not just about the art,” said Lexi and Allie, once more sharing sentence duty. “At surface value, we’re two cute, tiny blondes—very California. There’s a lot of image there. We also like to play into that with the artwork. We’re making fun of millennial culture—the shit you see on Instagram, the Hypebeast, the Yeezys, the selfies, the eggplant emojis referring to someone’s dick—but we also know it’s our culture too, and that’s what makes it interesting.”

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