Art Trends: Pop Up Art Exhibits

Pop Up Art Exhibits have become a successful addition to the art world. In a world where art exhibitions may be scheduled up to three years in advance, and young emerging artists struggle to find avenues to promote their work, the idea that small spaces could be used for short term periods is attractive. With empty retail space located in large metropolitan areas worldwide, pop up art exhibits have become an innovative way for artists to showcase their work, on their own terms and schedule.

The Pop Up Art Exhibits Movement:

Beginning in New York City, where exhibition space is limited but art is plentiful, the pop up art exhibit idea began as a way for artists and galleries to exhibit work while retail space owners, suffering from an economic downturn in 2007-2008, benefited from a stream of income for an otherwise empty retail space. Further, there are rewards for other local businesses, as traffic is increased in areas, where art enthusiasts can visit exhibits, shop, and enjoy bars and restaurants in downtown locations.


Along with pop up retail businesses, the idea blossomed in large cities like Paris, London, San Francisco, and Hong Kong, where collectors naturally flocked to find works of contemporary art among popular galleries and museums. Further, anyone involved in the art industry can create a pop up exhibit: photographers, painters, artists, gallery owners, and even museums have jumped on the bandwagon to draw attention to their work, and for galleries and museums, improve attendance at their brick and mortar locations.

Another reason to consider a pop up art exhibit is explained in the natural lifespan of art exhibits, especially those with a limited number of pieces available, or those showcasing an emerging artist. There is a natural decay of interest in art gallery exhibitions, which are often bustling with traffic for the first few days. When an exhibit is scheduled for a period of one to two months, traffic drops off significantly over time, with only straggling attendance in the last few weeks. Knowing that an exhibit is only open for a very brief period (3-7 days, for example) creates a buzz as people rush to attend, wanting the opportunity to see (and purchase) pieces before the event is over.

The Pop Up Art Exhibits Players:

Although pop up art exhibits have been most popular with artists looking for the freedom of a self-organized, inexpensive way to show their work, larger galleries and museums are also participating in this more recent endeavor. One example is the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, which took on the idea of bringing a museum to traditionally underserved communities. even provides a toolkit for those interested in creating their own museum. London is home to the London Pop Up Art Fair, held in June, which encourages galleries to create their own exhibits in an event held three times a year. It combines the best aspects of an art fair with the benefits of a pop up art exhibit, where emerging artists and art professionals can network and create interest in new works.

Companies have appeared which specialize in connecting artists (and others wishing to create pop up art exhibits) with owners of spaces appropriate for exhibitions. Companies like Storefront bring together both parties in large cities worldwide where pop up art exhibits have already been proven successful.

Pop Up Art Exhibit Works:

Any medium and genre of art is appropriate for pop up exhibits, although contemporary art dominates the pop up exhibit world. Additionally, the specifics of a location (size, lighting, display fixtures, and weather) can dictate the scope of work which can be displayed at a site. In Hong Kong, French artist Julien Raynaud, presents paintings celebrating his adventures traveling between Paris and Hong Kong; and in Chicago, the River Assembly Project took an industrial barge and converted it into a floating museum, featuring large scale works by local artists. It was moved along the Chicago River, stopping in multiple neighborhoods to provide Chicagoans the opportunity to view—and purchase—artwork as they viewed it.

Finding Pop Up Art Exhibits:

Since pop up art exhibitions have grown in popularity, and the original purpose was to increase visibility for artists and galleries, one can often search in local newspapers, online sites, and network with art professionals to locate pop up art exhibits. Large art-centric areas like London, Paris, and New York City have events happening on a weekly basis. Museums and galleries are collaborating with artists to help sponsor their events and to promote them. One need not look far to find a pop up art exhibit nearby. For more news about art events, sign up with Sybaris Collection.