For her third New York solo show, British artist Lucy Sparrow wanted to do something special. So, to follow up 2017’s blockbuster felt bodega and the upscale stuffed grocery store of 2019, she’s back with her most interactive work to date, a cross between Jewish appetizing store and delicatessen where she’ll be sewing bagel sandwiches to order, $250 a pop.
Considering the price of lox at Russ and Daughters on the Lower East Side—nearly $60 a pound—it’s not a bad deal. Each and every component is lovingly hand stitched by the artist, who has spent about nine months in preparation for the show, and you can choose up to eight toppings from the counter.
Some are traditional, like slices of smoked salmon, hand-painted rounds of tomatoes, glittering pickle spears, and strings of shiny black beads for the caviar. There’s also satiny fried eggs or fluffy scrambled ones if you want a bacon, egg, and cheese, and sweet options such as Nutella and berries, as well as less conventional offerings including mozzarella, jalapeños, and hummus.
The bagels also come in 13 flavors, including the Instagram-famous rainbow variety, and cost $50 sans filling.
The pop-up exhibition is called, naturally, “Feltz Bagels”—a Jewish surname that doubles as a nod to Sparrow’s preferred material. (She loves using the relatively inexpensive fabric because it comes in such a wide variety of colors, allowing her to recreate almost anything in her cute and cuddly style.)
Because Sparrow doesn’t have any Jewish heritage, she did lots of research to make sure she got the details for Feltz Bagels right, including visiting local stalwarts Russ and Daughters and Katz’s Deli, both of which were in full support of her handmade creations. (The former even provided babka for the exhibition press preview, served alongside Sparrow’s stuffed slices, naturally.)
“My work is always focused on community experiences and the amazing everyday products that bring us all together. There really is no greater example of this than the traditional bagel bakeries of the Lower East Side of New York that have been nourishing much more than the stomachs of the city’s residents since the late 19th century,” Sparrow said in a statement.
Organized by Montauk gallery TW Fine Art, this is the second iteration of Feltz Bagels, after a run in Montauk this summer. (Sparrow has also created her own McDonald’s, a British corner shop, and a Los Angeles supermarket, among other projects.) To meet expected demand—her first NYC show, “8 ‘Till Late” had to close early when everything sold out—Sparrow created 30,000 individual works for the occasion.
The shop’s offerings go beyond bagels to include other foodstuffs popular with the Jewish community, including yarn-covered latkes, shiny tins of caviar, and Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup.
There’s even a special tribute to the Jewish religion, with a shelf featuring a fabric Hanukkah menorah and Passover Seder plate made by Sparrow, with chocolate gelt, matzos crackers, and Manischewitz kosher wine. (On the other hand, there’s a secret back room selling pork products, hard liquor, and tiny baggies of marijuana, among other illicit substances, with thick stacks of felt money.)
There’s also a wide range of baked goods for sale at Feltz’s, including the iconic black and white cookies, croissants, and diminutive rugelach for just $10 a piece, as well as various types of junk food. (The bags of Cheetos Puffs, with their delightful depiction of Chester Cheetah, deserve a special mention.)
It’s a true New York moment, with all the best of Jewish food culture in one place (traditionally, meat and cheese products are sold at separate stores in keeping with kosher dietary law, but I think it’s fair to let things slide in the name of art).
And, as a reminder of just what a culinary melting pot is, you can also order a $50 cup of coffee in the traditional blue and white Greek to-go cup, reading “we are happy to serve you”—a fitting tagline for Sparrow’s feel-good art.
See more photos from the exhibition below.
“Lucy Sparrow: Feltz Bagels” is on view at 209 East 3rd Street, New York, October 3–31, 2023.
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