weekends and pop ups
The short duration of the shows I highlighted in my last post reflects one way I've found art exhibits changing recently. This rather lengthy but interesting article explores the changing role of the artist in society, and it's far from controversial to claim that the conventional understanding of an art gallery has to adapt to it. Short term shows and pop-up galleries are a great example of one response to the changes in culture and economy that affect the art world at large.
Since the driving force behind these changes is primarily financial, limiting the time works are on display/for sale seems designed to promote purchases. My extremely simplistic summary is as follows: as the middle class declines, much of the population loses the economic flexibility to buy art. It follows that galleries reflect a stronger emphasis on affordable art. 10x10 sells all their pieces for just $200, appealing to a demographic unable to spend thousands of dollars on a work of art. Boutiques functioning as temporary art galleries is another example of this strategy. The time limitations add an element of urgency, and there's less of a chance for buyers to talk themselves out of buying a piece.
I would be doing a disservice, however, to limit the benefits of an alternative art sales structure to the financial. In December I worked as a greeter/bartender at a pop-up gallery in Portsmouth organized by Kate Doyle and some of her peers. It was held in a transitioning restaurant downtown, and the art looked terrific in the unconventional space. Using transitioning or empty spaces for a temporary show removes the need for continuing financial support for the space, and the money made can go primarily to the artists. It's also exciting to see a space transformed; for those involved and for visitors. Many of the show's attendants frequented the restaurant before it closed, and were excited to discover similarities and differences in how the room was presented. It was gratifying to see how well the bar lent itself to exhibiting art. The ability to see the art in a less formal context made it easier to envision it on the wall of a home.
Often functioning more like art events than exhibits, these shows are usually less formal than your typical gallery. Lower prices allow the space to function more like a boutique, and shows lasting only one or two days gain an atmosphere akin to that of an opening. This lessens any perceived venerability often attributed to gallery space. Pop-ups and short-term shows have a pleasing independence from the looming specter of "fine art." The imminent closure of the show lends an immediacy necessitating attention to the artworks, with an ease of conversation often aided by an ample supply of wine. As the traditional concept of an art gallery responds to the changing economics of the art world, I'm interested to see where the concept of a pop-up gallery will fit, and how the lengths of art shows change.