Photos: We Went To The O.J. Simpson Museum So You Don't Have To
The leather glove, the Ford Bronco, the Akita dog; every single artifact associated with the O.J. Simpson case is referenced at Coagula Curatorial Gallery's new pop-up, "The O.J. Museum." Curator Adam Papagan announced plans to open the museum a week after O.J. Simpson was granted parole in July, and now the tiny Chinatown gallery has been transformed into a 3D immersive Wikipedia page about the Simpson trial.
At times, the exhibit feels alarmingly like a shrine to Simpson; a replica of his "32" football jersey stands in the center of the room, against a backdrop of "Free O.J." T-shirts. Still, gallery employees are quick to point out that the exhibit pays tribute not to Simpson himself, but to the cultural moment that built up around him after the hyper-publicized murder of his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman in Brentwood in 1994.
Photos of Brown and Goldman occupy a full wall of the gallery, which Coagula's self-described "gallerina" Lisa Derrick calls an effort to preserve the victims' memories. Derrick points to Simpson's recent parole, as well as the popularity of new series like O.J.: Made in America and American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson, as factors in the public's renewed interest in the Simpson case, saying, "My nineteen-year-old niece and her friends are so excited about this exhibition, they know all about the Simpson trial, they love crime."
Many Americans shared that excitement in the years following O.J. Simpson's trial, as is seen in the extensive collection of O.J. memorabilia on display, from shot glasses stamped with Simpson's mugshot to a novelty board game called "Squeeze The Juice." Over 80 souvenir T-shirts line a gallery wall, on loan from Martin Hugo, a graphic designer who has been collecting the shirts for a decade. Some of the T-shirts proclaim O.J.'s innocence; others call for his imprisonment; still others merely chronicle the bizarre ephemera of the trial. ("The Only Witness," reads one shirt emblazoned with a color photo of Brown Simpson's Akita, Kato.)
"Anywhere but L.A., I could see this getting protested," said Tony, a young man rolling a cigarette outside the gallery on Thursday, indicating the parked Bronco with a nod of his head. Tony, who is 25 and works as a cook in downtown L.A., is too young to remember the Simpson trial firsthand, but he's researched the case online and says, "It's pretty obvious to me that he did it." Would Tony pay $4 to see the exhibit when it opens Friday? "I don't know. It seems kind of weird."
"The O.J. Museum" is open to the public from Friday, August 18 to Tuesday, August 22 at the Coagula Curatorial Gallery. 974 Chung King Road, 323-840-7852. Tickets cost $4 per person and are available here.