Come on, Barbie, let’s go party! Orange Art Gallery celebrates hit movie

Six people wearing pink pose for a photograph.
The Hollander family at the Orange Art Gallery’s Barbie exhibit party on Aug. 10. Photo by Daria Maystruk.

By Daria Maystruk

A pink aura emanated from a vine-covered, orange brick house on Aug. 10. But this wasn’t a Barbie dream house  — it was the Orange Art Gallery hosting an exhibit launch party. 

Pink balloons, curtains and party snacks filled the venue, all paying homage to the recent release of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.

Based on the plastic doll manufactured by the Mattel toy company since the 1950s, the new film follows Margot Robbie’s “stereotypical Barbie” as she embarks on a journey to the real world. There, she must face the harsh realities of living in a patriarchal society that break her illusion of perfection from the “Barbie world.”

Since its release, the film has made more than $1 billion in global box office ticket sales, according to Warner Bros Pictures.

On the local level, fans from around Ottawa are welcoming the whimsical nature of the film with open arms. 

Orange Art Gallery co-owner Ingrid Hollander said the idea for a Barbie party and exhibit sprang to her upon watching the movie in cinemas the day after opening night. 

“Everybody was dressed up, everyone was taking pictures, and it was just nice to see everybody having so much fun,” Hollander said. “I grew up with Barbie but I think it’s for all ages … I think people right now are just in the mood to have a bit of fun with all the bad news elsewhere, and I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s doing so well.”

Three women pose for a photo.
Orange Art Gallery co-owner Ingrid Hollander and family members pose for a photograph. Photo by Daria Maystruk.

She said she quickly asked artists to create Barbie-inspired paintings for the exhibit, which are showcased in the main room of the gallery.  

“I did a little brainstorming with my sister and my mother and I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to have a Barbie party at the gallery?’,” Hollander said. “So the main room is where the exhibition is, and then I went around the gallery and I chose other pieces that fit the theme.”

A few weeks after inspiration struck, the exhibit launch party proved to be a successful family affair. In addition to Hollander’s own family, a diverse range of supporters joined in on the fun, embodying the bright fashions of the movie by wearing their best pink attire.

Jessica Ruano attended the event with her daughter, Joy, and said they both enjoyed the party as much as they enjoyed the film. 

“There was somebody [at the movie theatre] dressed as Barbie so [Joy] feels like she met Barbie … [And] it hit all the right notes for a certain progressive feminist audience, which I appreciated,” Ruano said. “It was basically a big ad for Mattel, but otherwise it was a very enjoyable experience.”

In addition to using the party as “an excuse to dress up,” Ruano said she also attended the event to support the gallery. The business is seeking heritage status after learning its lease won’t be renewed at the end of this year.

A woman and her young daughter pose for a photo.
Jessica Ruano poses with her daughter Joy at the Orange Art Gallery’s Barbie exhibit party on Aug. 10. Photo by Daria Maystruk.

“I got the newsletter about the Orange Art Gallery possibly closing and I thought that was a travesty,” Ruano said. “It’s a wonderful gallery and not only does it display works by local artists, it also hosts workshops and events … I would be very sad to see this place go.”

Other visitors were quick to add their names to the petition boards posted in a room near one of the gallery entrances. 

Another longtime supporter of the gallery and party attendee, Evangeline Moskos, said she enjoyed how Barbie reminded her of nostalgic memories and said her husband wanted to see the movie twice. 

“There are a lot of memories from when I was a young girl playing with my Barbie in the campervan,” Moskos said. “It was just lovely. I went with my husband and ended up buying him a lovely Ken shirt.”

Moskos said she encourages others to visit the free exhibit while they can to “lift [their] spirits.”

A man and a woman pose for a photograph with paintings behind them.
Evangeline Moskos with her husband at the Barbie exhibit party on Aug. 10. Photo by Daria Maystruk.

“I think art can instill a sense of awe in you which is really important for mental health and happiness … especially if someone has children they want to expose to art. I think they should come and take a look.”

The Orange Art Gallery is just one of the businesses around Ottawa who have adopted the pink party theme this summer. 

Zak’s Diner also introduced a limited-time Barbie milkshake to its menu in late July, as well as pink branding on its social media pages. 

Moviegoers can still view Barbie in movie theatres as of the end of August.

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