A pop-up 'grocery store' in NYC, where every product on display is made from plastic bags, is sending a powerful message about consumption and convenience.

Everyday supermarket items made from upcycled plastic on display
Times Square Arts ©Maria Baranova-Suzuki

The Plastic Bag Store is an immersive, art installation designed to coincide with New York City's ban on plastic bags coming into effect in March. Created by award-winning, Brooklyn-based artist Robin Frohardt, with original music by Freddi Price and produced by Pomegranate Arts, the exhibit will run from March 18 – April 12 2020 at 20 Times Square.

Free and open to the public, the show aims to make us think about the manner in which we consume and how we have come to prioritise convenience over the health of the planet. Visitors can browse what looks like a typical NYC grocery store with rows of brightly-coloured everyday produce made from upcycled plastic bags neatly displayed, from pints of ice-cream and whole rotisserie chickens to deli items, and cleaning supplies.

"It is my attempt to make something authentic and human from that which is mass-produced," said Frohardt. "There is a great humor to be found in the pitfalls of capitalism and I find that humour and satire can be powerful tools for social criticism, especially with issues that feel too sad and overwhelming to confront directly."

In the evenings. the store will stage an original theatrical performance and puppet show written by Frohardt, whose puppets have appeared in shows like Orange Is The New Black and 30 Rock, using theatre to examine how the unwanted plastic waste that clogs our landscape and oceans might be misinterpreted by future generations. 

Artist Robin Frohardt standing in Times Square at night
Robin Frohardt in Times Square ©Maria Baranova-Suzuki

"Robin has created the quintessential New York City public artwork – satire, smarts, local politics, global concerns, challenging Times Square’s love affair with consumerism and spectacle, and all within a beautiful project quite literally made for and by New Yorkers, specifically from our trash, said Times Square Arts Director, Jean Cooney.

The Plastic Bag Store is free to browse; performance is also free but registration is required due to limited seating. For more information, see here.

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This article was first published Feb 19, 2020 and updated Feb 20, 2020.

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