Lucy Sparrow’s Felt Groceries Are Actually Lab Supplies

THE DAILY PIC: Lucy Sparrow's felt-filled bodega is an experiment in how art functions today.

THE DAILY PIC (#1806): This is a photo I took last week of English artist Lucy Sparrow as she was finishing the installation of Eight ‘Till Late, for which she’s duplicated the entire contents of a New York bodega in felt. The piece, sited at the Standard, High Line hotel in New York, has been covered (twice—now three times) on Artnet News, I’ve written about it for tomorrow’s New York Times (that article is now online) and it is getting vast play on social media.

I know that some people in the art world will see Sparrow’s work as light and fluffy, and I’m sure the public that flocks to it will only be looking for a good time. But thinking further on Sparrow and her art, I’ve come to think that the piece isn’t really made up of the acres of felt that she’s used or the 9,000 objects that she’s imitated. Whether Sparrow knows it or not, her work’s true art supplies are the artist herself and the people who show up to ogle her art. Eight Till Late functions as an experiment—a sociological assay—on how people imagine a “real” artist should act, on how art circulates in our Instagrammed world and on what viewers expect to get from the art they take in. They don’t seek contemplation, anymore, or self-betterment, but the chance to be part of a connected network of pleasure-seekers.

The “serious” galleries of Chelsea spring up six blocks north of Eight Till Late. I feel as though they’re at one end of a cultural see-saw, with Sparrow’s installation, and the alternate art world it represents, at the other. And Sparrow’s experiment is busy testing how long the two worlds can stay in balance.

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