Rise Art

Pop-Up Retail for your Artwork?

Posted in Uncategorized by Scott @ Rise Art on June 23, 2010

While it is nothing new for artists or galleries to occupy empty shops for a short period of time (I belive Claes Oldenburg’s ‘The Store‘ in New York, 1961 was amongst the first), Pop-up shops – are regaining popularity given the rise in available retail space in many city centers due to the lasting impact of the recent recession. Artist can and should take advantage of the current opportunity. As more shops empty, local councils and landlords are encouraging artist led initiatives – no one wants to live or shop in a ghost quarter, and pop-up retail can help revive and encourage investment in new retail space.

The rise in cheap short term retail locations may be fleeting, so artists should take advantage of this opportunity while it exists. But before throwing yourself head over heels in a pop-up project, there are a few things to consider. Landlords and Councils will want to see a viable plan for a pop-up project, and despite relatively low costs associated with pop-up spaces, a poorly planned project can cost artists time and money. A few thought when planning your next pop-up retail project:

  1. What is the purpose behind your project? Why is the pop-up show the right format?
  2. What work do I want to show? Is there a common thread throughout the work?
  3. Who do I want to see my show? This will define in what area of a city you would ideally show the work; does it have to be in the centre, or can it be in a ‘hidden spot’?
  4. How long do you want your project to last?
  5. What are your goals for the project? Try to define measurable objectives and set realistic goals that you can acheive.
  6. What will your project cost? Planning ahead can reduce expenses and uncover hidden costs
  7. Any idea how you will get ‘the word’ out there? Viral & Grassroots strategies can help you get the word out cheaply
  8. Why is your project an asset to the building or landlord? What do they get out of it?

Artist and Makers network have created a complete guide for pop-up shows for artists, downloadable here.

Now, where are you going to find a space? When I started sourcing potential locations for pop-ups shops, I did so by keeping my eyes open for empty shops and then try to find out who was responsible for letting it. But I have come a long way since then, and can tell you that there might be more efficient ways: contact the council in which you would like to show your work. Some of them request a draft of a proposal, which you already have if you have set down and answered the questions above. Then there are private companies you can get in touch with – listen to what they say, from experience I know that some of them have very specific ideas of what they wanted to see in their shops.

Recently, a new site Popupspace has launched and caters to individuals looking to let and source property for short term pop-up exhibits.

Before just saying yes, make sure you visit the space suggested to you and ensure that whatever you envisaged is possible to turn into reality. Be flexible with your expectations and ideas, but stay realistic. If you have whimsical work on display and are offered an old factory building, you might have to change your plans or say ‘no’ to the space.

What are your experiences with Pop-Up retail? Let us know what you have found helpful in planning your shows


3 Responses

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  1. Chloe said, on June 24, 2010 at 6:54 am

    I did one in Picadilly Arcades – a beautiful space in the heart of London!

  2. Chantal said, on June 25, 2010 at 8:26 am

    I was one of 10 artists involved in Unveiled (Dolphin shopping centre – Poole) which was a pop up shop art exhibition that had the aim of informing and raising awareness of sex trafficking.

    The shop was perfect in terms of emphasising the message of commercialising girls in the sex trade – and resulted in a huge amount of people visiting who would not have visited a traditional gallery setting.

    I think its really important to think about what this kind of venue can offer you over a regular artspace and work with that parameter (as long as it fits with your art in the first place!).

    Here are some pics of the Unveiled show insitu:

  3. Andy Wicks said, on July 1, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I organised a 3 person painting show in a disused office in Hoxton, London at the end of last year. The landlord was a friend of a friend and we managed to get the space for free for 2 weeks, it all came together very quickly but looked great, had a good turn out and a favourable review. I’d definitely recommend others to do it.

    I wrote a blog entry at the time on my experience and some general advice for others –


    Images –

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