NEW YORK — While not one of the major food groups, a bagel and a schmear made of felt might satisfy your appetite for art.
“Feltz Bagels,” the latest installation from British artist Lucy Sparrow, uses approximately 30,000 pieces of felt to recreate the look and feel of the authentic Jewish bagel shops prominent in New York’s Lower East Side neighborhood.
Sparrow says she wanted to depict how this breakfast food brought here by Eastern European immigrants in the late 19th century “morphed into New York society” and beyond, making the bagel the Swiss Army knife of breads. Cream cheese, butter, cold cuts, lox — anything that fits on the circular bread is fair game, Sparrow felt.
Taking over an abandoned storefront in the East Village, Sparrow’s pop-up shop runs from Tuesday through the end of October, offering a step back in time and the ambience of a real New York bagel shop.
Adding a dose of reality, Sparrow works the counter, taking orders for the bagel of your dreams — or your regular order, if you’re so inclined. The custom bagel sells for $250, and pricing for other items starts at $10.
“It’s the bagel that you order in real life, but I sew it together for you,” Sparrow said. “We have everything here from six different types of bagels, 44 different types of fillings. So, the possibilities are endless with what you can create in the art world out of felt food.”
This isn’t the first time Sparrow has converted classic New York installations into felt: She previously tackled a 1980s bodega in “8 Till Late,” and a delicatessen with “Lucy’s on 6th.” Like the others, “Feltz Bagels” provides an immersive experience for the patron.
“You are absolutely forcing people to interact with the art that you’re not usually supposed to do in the art galleries,” Sparrow said. “I want them to curate their own sandwich with like as little input from me as possible and have that turning art into almost like their own portrait through the medium of felt food.”
Every product recreation and deli item was cut and sewn by Sparrow, who says it took nine months of round-the-clock work.
“I used approximately 400 yards of felt,” she said.
And while this isn’t her biggest installation, Sparrow admits “Feltz Bagels” presented some challenges.
“It’s definitely the most complicated in terms of all the different components and the interaction of having lots of different pieces … that can be so personalized,” she said.
Other elements of the installation that, well, felt real include an antique cash register, a traditional Greek diner coffee cup and the pickles in a jar atop the counter next to the rugelach. Then there’s a full section of baked goods, and shelves all over the store laden with both Jewish delicacies and comfort foods. And, of course, the staple of any authentic New York bagel shop: the black and white cookie.
“The research for the show basically involved me going into many bagel shops,” Sparrow said, “and (I) gather information from all the different places and in my head, turn it into something that’s very technicolor.”
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