If you made it through the process of setting up a first project – whether pop-up shop, gallery or temporary exhibition, then there is one large question that begins to loom: What next? How do you take the success of the first project, the facebook followers you’ve acquired, the people who’ve supported you or engaged with the project – how do you move that up a gear, instead of it all falling flat, especially if the landlord decides that now is a good time to put the squeeze on and up the rent!
I think there are a number of options you can pursue.
The transient/ itinerant/ wandering gallery:
There are some great examples of this – from people who use a caravan for their exhibitions (see http://www.thecaravangallery.co.uk) to galleries that have no permanent abode and simply do pop-up shows wherever they can get their hands on exhibition space (e.g. Harlesden Gallery – www.harlesdengallery.co.uk). This has the benefit of reducing costs significantly but means each show can potentially be a case of starting from scratch to find space.
The repeat Meanwhiler:
You could do a longer cycle of leasing empty property, moving from premise to premise on a meanwhile lease – trying to ensure that you take your customer/audience loyalty with you at each move. Many galleries do move – it’s a well known fact that artists mark the tide in terms of cheap property/areas coming up for redevelopment or regeneration. East London was not a hub for the arts in the early eighties – it was artists moving into cheap property that sparked that revolution, so that today Shoreditch has it’s own rail station and is still the place emerging artists and creative endeavours want to be exhibited or seen. White Cube rode the wave that went before it of artists making things happen! Watch out when signing meanwhile leases for break clauses and the possibility of rent hikes. The scheme I’m a part of also imposed arduous requirements in terms of community give back – i.e. workshops and free events for the public, which also sap income/time – though they can also be fun and inspiring to do.
This is a more complex option. It is possible for local authorities (councils) to transfer property at less than best value to a community group. To do this an artist group would need to put in some serious work to a) negotiate with their local authority and b) to put in place structures as a group that meant they could realistically take on and run the property. The best available advice for this option is currently via the Asset Transfer Unit:
Scaling up with Investment:
Some galleries/entrepreneurs use their first pop-up venture(s) as a stepping stone to forge a viable business and to scale up their project. This is hard work, but it has been done – see http://www.sumarrialunn.com/ for an example of a gallery that started as a pop up in Peckham but has since progressed to take on property at the back of Bond Street, London and is now competing in the commercial art world.
Finding investment or backers is no easy task… and is a subject for another post!!!
- East End art scene ‘transforms’ (bbc.co.uk)