Joshua Smithis a Stencil Artist and Curator based in Adelaide, South Australia. With a career spanning over 15 years Josh has had over 160 exhibitions internationally of his work from Canada and the United States to Japan and all around Australia. His work has also been showcased in such mural festivals such as Wonderwallsand the Paterson’s Projectin Fitzroy. When not doing his own artwork he runs Espionage Gallery once an established gallery based in Rundle Mall he now runs pop up exhibitions showcasing work from both emerging and established local, interstate and international artists.
We were talking to Joshua Smith and asked him to share his thoughts on how to hold your own pop up show:
What Is a Pop Up show?
A pop up exhibition is a one off exhibition in a temporary space. It usually lasts for a small period of time, anywhere from 1 day/night to a weekend to a month. For the Espionage Gallery exhibitions we have run thus far both have been one day events.
Why are we seeing so many pop up shows these days?
One of the reasons so many galleries are shutting down is the overheads. Most people don’t think of the running costs of a gallery which can be very high. Things like rent, electricity, insurance, publicity and liquor licences make running a permanent space very difficult. The other thing is that when an establishment is running for a long period of time having regular shows (ie Espionage Gallery) people start to get in the mindset that they don’t have to go to every exhibition because the space is always going to be there. This in turn makes shows less profitable. Pop up exhibitions on the other hand give more incentive for people to check out an exhibition as it is only a temporary space.
How do you organise a pop up show?
Much in the same way of organising a regular exhibition. Finding the right artists, selecting a theme (if there is one) but then it gets a little tricky. Depending on the venue (in my case 2 outdoor exhibitions) it requires a lot of prep work and site visits. Things like council regulations then come into play, how you are going to hang the work, infrastructure, the weather, promotion ect. A one day exhibition can involve a lot of work (in some cases up to 6 months for a single day event!) and requires a lot of volunteers on the day to run smoothly. There is no rent but things like infrastructure, security and all these other hidden costs still make it a very expensive event especially if it is just for one day. The pay off can be quite large though, the first outdoor event we ran had over 3040 people in attendance which is more people than a year of openings at our old space.
Is it hard to find a venue. Where does an artist start to look?
For outdoor events you really need to think of how you are going to hang the work, safety and security of the artwork and the public, weather conditions ect. In many cases the easiest thing to do is to find a space which is already for lease and approaching the land owner. Spaces which have been vacant and for lease for years are your best bet. Approaching the owner with the prospect of them handing the space over to you for a limited time for low rent or for free may seem impossible but when you highlight the fact that you could potentially have thousands of people through the building to check out the event this gives clients who may want the building more long term a way of showing what the space could be used for. When you look at it like this you are giving them free advertising and makes their building stand out against dozens of other vacant spaces. Renew Newcastleand Renew Adelaideuse this principle and it has worked very well both for artists and land owners.
What are the typical costs involved?
There are a lot of costs you wouldn’t normally think of. Security, pass out stamps, power, generators, portaloo hire, flyers, insurance. The list is almost endless! It is a very good idea to talk to local council and have a team behind you to make sure that the event is legal and covers all bases. It is not just a matter of finding a venue and putting up artwork.
What makes a pop up show different to more traditional gallery exhibitions?
The fact that you could do a lot more. The events we have run in the past go beyond the conventional exhibition. Other aspects such as free workshops, music and dance performances and installations make the event more themed and in turn a lot more special.
What are some of the difficulties that an artist might experience when organising their own pop up show?
Just the amount of work involved. If you are just looking at transforming a vacant space then it is fairly straight forward and can save you sometimes thousands of dollars you would normally spend on a gallery hire but then you have to be the person hanging the show, doing promotion, setting up, packing down as well as making the work! If you can get a team of volunteers behind you it makes life a lot easier but prepare to spend a long time in some cases many months organising something that may only be 1 day. Lead up time and preparation is crucial to a successful event.
Doing pop up exhibitions can be a lot of work and in some cases very stressful but if you go into it with a team of people it makes things easier. Talking to other people who have run pop up events can be a invaluable experience.