For the past few years, the art world has been witnessing the rise of a new concept: the ‘pop-up gallery’. As a synonym for greater flexibility, visibility and considerable savings in time and money, some galleries are becoming more and more interested in it and have made it their business model. This concept does not necessarily speak to everyone and may seem difficult to understand. Therefore, how is the pop-up gallery concept the ideal solution to boost your business and boost your sales? And, how do you manage to create a pop-up gallery that suits you?
What is a pop-up gallery ?
The concept of ‘pop-up gallery’ is a common term used to describe all types of ephemeral galleries that usually take place in new, non-traditional, spaces. It aims to stand apart from the orthodox, coded and established ecosystem of the exhibition and gallery world. Shorter, more intense, more immersive, this new gallery model emphasizes the ‘real-life experience’ and challenges the notion of temporality, sometimes lasting only a day or a few weeks.
It does not seek to be embedded in time but in space and in minds. In parallel to the search for a new artistic and sensory approach, hosting your exhibition in an atypical and unconventional location, improves the attractiveness of your event, catches the attention of the media, boosts your visits and therefore your sales.
Pop-up gallery by artist Scott Debus
Why adopting this model can be a good thing for your gallery ?
Numerous galleries have increased their event strategy around the ‘pop-up gallery’ notion. Since the art market has suffered greatly due to the Covid-19 crisis, this concept may be a timely and strategic choice to revitalize your business. Indeed, this kind of high-profile event gives visibility to your gallery and makes it more attractive and accessible. It democratizes art by reaching out to a wider audience. The uncommon places that host this type of exhibition attracts the curiosity of collectors, bystanders and art lovers, since a notion of mystery emerges. Moreover, this exhibition model turns out to be reassuring for the visitor, who may become a future consumer, a sign that your gallery lives in the era of time and is not afraid to dare to adapt to changes.
Another strategic and financial aspect comes out. Pop-ups allow galleries of all sizes to diversify and expand temporarily, at a lower cost, their footprint beyond their geographical location. Opening a pop-up gallery in foreign emerging countries and markets can be a strategy whereby companies expand and develop internationally. This business model is much more profitable than that of permanent galleries, it ensures flexibility, minimal overhead costs, and an additional revenue stream while avoiding the commitment of a long-term lease and staffing.
Artwork by Rocío Coppola for the Home Hotel's pop-up gallery in Buenos Aires
How to adopt and adapt this model to your vision ?
Catching the right start can be very challenging, especially when there is limited time to prove yourself and seduce your visitors. The pop-up model being quite complex, if you haven't considered all the key elements for success, your pop-up gallery project can quickly turn out to be a fiasco. Here are a few tips on how to best plan the opening of your pop-up.
Every gallery has its own conception of art and how it intends to exhibit it. This is why clearly visualize what you expect from your exhibition is essential. Are you looking for a completely different market, or do you just want to expand your own? Are you targeting a new audience or are you simply looking to expand your core audience?
Place and Time
Even though the very concept of a pop-up gallery is to offer its audience a unique experience and a seamless immersion in the specific worlds of emerging or renowned artists, a cost-effective event is a real challenge. This is why it is necessary to choose the right place at a right time. Think wider, think about a place that will both seduce your target audience but also surprise a potential new one, a younger art-driven community for instance. Consider non-traditional spaces, think about emblematic cultural places that will attract passers-by and tourists.
Manage your timing! Open your pop-up gallery during big cultural events, an auction week or an art fair for example may draw a larger audience. But you shouldn't be drowned by a wave of important events either.
Swedish artist Jacob Dahlgren created a 10,000 ribbons room for the Color Factory Pop-Up in San Francisco
Good to know
Promoting your exhibition is the key element. Your digital presence, especially on social networks, will be your main leverage in terms of visibility (post eye-catching content such as contests and polls). Promoting your pop-up gallery via street marketing (distribution of leaflets and flyers) is also an effective way to catch people's interest. To avoid infrastructure costs, consider a win-win situation via partnerships and collaborations. Set up your pop-up gallery in a ready-to-wear store or at a car dealership for instance, you attract new visitors and they host you for free.
Although a pop-up gallery calls for something less expensive than a long-term exhibition, as infrastructure costs always represent the largest part of your budget, it is essential to list all the costs that your temporary exhibition will have to cover (such as rent, utilities and furniture for the space). But also costs related to staff, installation and deinstallation, cleaning, and don't forget
the insurance and security deposit.
Negotiating the price of certain costs can be a good way to lighten your budget. Renting a space for your pop-up gallery often provides a good visibility opportunity for its landlord. This is why it is common to cut the price of the rent. Always have a written proof at your disposal and ask for advice from real estate professionals before signing anything.
Proofread carefully the deal
Check the security and liability requirements you must meet in your contract to obtain your insurance coverage. Always review everything you need to know yourself and then double-check with your insurance broker or landlord. For New York-based projects, make sure the space you are renting has a CofO Certificate of Occupancy.
Either you were thinking about launching your pop-up gallery or you were just curious to know what's behind their success, now you have the main information you need to understand everything. By following these guidelines, you will have a first solid base that may help you to develop all your reflection work. Remember that this new concept, through its originality, innovation, framework and message, will sustain your business and energize it.
Finally, keep your goal in mind, in order to choose the best place and time for a pop-up gallery that suits you best. Properly elaborating your budget, negotiating your contract and reading it carefully will guide you towards a successful project.