8.2.18 / Los Angeles / California

‘Sparrow Mart’ Is A Kaleidoscopic, Felt Supermarket at the Standard Downtown LA

A whimsical supermarket fantasy 

For Angelenos, there’s a new immersive, kaleidoscopic, visual feast (literally) titled Sparrow Mart at the Standard Downtown L.A. Within the hotel, an entire supermarket is recreated, completely stocked with purchasable items with one catch: it’s all in felt. Scores of items—Spam, Lucky Charms, Jack Daniels—have all been recreated as eye candy (there’s a candy aisle too) which visitors can look at, Instagram, most likely, and then buy (prices start at only $5). If this all rings a bell it’s because artist Lucy Sparrow had done something similar just over a year ago at the Standard Highline, recreating the New York bodega. It ended up closing nine days early because the 9,000 piece inventory was almost entirely wiped out, but this time Sparrow has scaled up, this time offering 31,000 felt pieces in a 2,800 sq/ft space. Fortunately for guests the Standard is also offering a menu of actual treats at the ‘Sparrow To Go’ lobby pop-up including braised brisket sandwiches, playful cocktails, and even specially made pop-tarts.

Sparrow is originally from England, and a part of it feels like she’s exploring American culture through something as necessary and routine as our markets and the food stocked in them. The exhibit has a cheery and optimistic charm that serves to be a respite from a gloomy national mood, but there does seem to be something beneath the surface. While critics noted that Sparrow’s exhibit at the Standard Highline last year was a reflection of the slowly disappearing classic bodega, Sparrow Mart is more of a traditional supermarket. That means that though there are fruits, veggies, and meats, the thing that grabs you the most is the sheer amount of brands recreated in felt, especially since the store takes on an ’80s vibe (complete with felt VHS titles of popular movies from the era), when those products were mass produced and heavily marketed with vibrant ads. It’s oddly disarming looking at an aisle full of products from massive corporations in a cute and cuddly package, and the irony of artificiality is not overlooked. Even the meats and produce are decorated with eyes and sometimes smiles like stuffed animals—a little uncanny in the age of the Netflix exposés on food malpractices. Either way you choose to see it, Sparrow Mart a visual treat and the exhibit will put a smile on your face, whether it’s a cynical one smirking at the proliferation of corporate branding pervading our own diets or because a felt avocado is smiling back at you.

‘Sparrow Mart’ is open at the Standard Downtown Los Angeles through August 31st

[Lucy Sparrow]

[Photos courtesy of The Standard]

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