See the Adorable New Grocery Store in Rockefeller Center, Where Everything Is Art—and It’s All on Sale for as Little as $5
British artist Lucy Sparrow's last New York show had to close early in 2017 when she sold out of her soft sculpture foodstuffs.
Two years after her hand-crafted felt bodega delighted hoards of New Yorkers, British artist Lucy Sparrow is back in Manhattan, setting up shop at Rockefeller Center courtesy of the Art Production Fund. Everything in the interactive public art project is available for purchase—some 30,000 adorable foodstuffs in total.
For her second project in the city, Sparrow has gone decidedly upscale, drawing inspiration from fancy grocery stores like the now-faded New York institution Dean & Deluca.
“It’s funny. Luxury food isn’t something I know much about because I’m not a foodie or anything like that,” Sparrow told artnet News at the exhibition press preview. “But New York is one of those cities where you’ve got these very high-end delis where food has become as much of an art as art.”
Where her installation 8 ‘Till Late back in 2017 had smokes for sale behind the register and all manner of frozen foods, candy bars, and cleaning products on offer, Delicatessen on 6th specializes in fresh produce, with organic kale, ripe avocados, and tidy bunches of spring onions displayed in rustic wooden crates. The deli counter with its cold cuts and sliced cheese is out, replaced by a butcher station featuring freshly ground beef and premium cuts of meat. All in felt.
You’ll also find all manner of soft-sculpture seafood, including ruby red lobsters, shiny sardines, and oysters that you can actually shuck, removing the smiling bivalves from the shells. For the first time, Sparrow has created a cheese counter, a bakery, and a patisserie, recreating every aspect of a fancy food emporium.
Per usual, the artist did lots of research ahead of time to make sure she was accurately depicting her chosen subject. “I went around a lot of delis and farmers markets,” she said, declaring her favorite new piece to be the bunches of spring onions.
The resulting display fits right in at Rockefeller Center, sited right next to frou frou cupcake joint Magnolia Bakery, of Sex and the City fame.
8 ‘Till Late closed a full nine days ahead of schedule, after its shelves were wiped clean of all 9,000 stuffed goods thanks to overwhelming demand. Thus, for the new operation, Sparrow expanded her offerings, bringing on a team to help her sew the tiny sculptures.
The Standard Hotel, which hosted the previous New York project, brought Sparrow to the West Coast in 2018, where she created an astonishing 31,000 pieces for Sparrow Mart, a Los Angeles supermarket installation. Delicatessen on 6th is slightly less ambitious in its scope, given that she has created fewer packaged goods, each of which come with incredibly faithful hand-painted labels. This time around, Sparrow’s painted details are mostly relegated to subtle details on salmon steaks or grapefruit segments, while fruit and seafood alike sport stitched smiley faces.
Despite the wild demand for her cute and cuddly work, Sparrow is loathe to raise her prices, which start at just $5 for one of her tiny pink prawns. “I still want it to be really accessible,” she explained. “I’m just hoping it will last the duration, because if you show up later in the month and it’s closed, that’s a massive disappointment.”
Sparrow also has work on view elsewhere in the complex, 45 Rockefeller Center, where she’s installed blown-up photographs of her felted sculptures in displays typically reserved for ads, and felted aquarium and terrarium scenes in three window vitrines in the lobby. The project is the biggest activation to date in Art Production Fund’s “Art in Focus” public art series, which began in December and has seen work by Joana Avillez, Hein Koh, Portia Munson, and LaKela Brown take over the center’s public spaces.
“We first saw Lucy’s work at the Standard and it’s been a dream of ours to be able to do something with her,” Art Production Fund director Casey Fremont told artnet News. “We knew that this retail store was moving out and Rockefeller Center wanted to do an interactive installation. It’s been a about a year in the works, and this is such a fun experience!”
See more photos of the show below.
“Lucy Sparrow: Delicatessen on 6th” is on view at Rockefeller Center, 1240 6th Avenue between West 49th and 50th Streets, October 1–20, 2019. The project is open daily 11 a.m.–8 p.m.
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