How Short-term Leases and Pop-up Spaces Can Change the Art Gallery World


When art galleries around the world were forced to close their doors several months ago, owners had to adjust the ways in which they sold art to their clients. The changes brought on by Covid-19 forced owners to adopt new means of reaching and communicating with their audience and client base, embracing the use of online viewing rooms, digital exhibitions, and virtual tours of their gallery space. As we begin to approach the end of this year-long global pandemic it becomes clearer every day that the art gallery space has undergone a radical transformation and the pre-Covid-19 ways of approaching the business have changed for good.

From the excess of international art fairs and storage costs, to rising rents and climbing insurance rates, the cost of operating an art gallery has never been higher. When running a successful art gallery business, it’s essential to keep overhead costs low. This means optimizing the fixed costs required to run an art gallery in today’s art market.

One of the many things we learned from the Covid-19 pandemic when galleries were forced to close was that gallery owners did not need a physical space to present their artworks to the public. The widespread adoption of virtual gatherings and exhibitions has been instrumental for the art gallery business model over the past year. Moving forward, galleries might begin realizing that it’s not the end of the world if they can’t maintain a long-term physical space to hold and exhibit their art.

Short-term leases and the rise of pop-up galleries

This is where short-term leases and pop-up galleries come into play. Even before the changes brought about by Covid-19, many galleries had experimented with the idea of pop-up galleries — temporary spaces where galleries can showcase a unique concept in an entirely new location. For larger galleries who can afford multiple exhibition spaces, pop-up galleries allow them to expand their programming and experiment with a new space in a way that feels both ephemeral and exciting.

These pop-up galleries can range anywhere from urban storefronts to small artist studios and even reconverted lofts which offer abundant and open exhibition spaces. This gallery model has the added advantage of reducing long-term lease commitments while expanding gallery visibility. For small art galleries which struggle to survive, the idea of a short-term leasing space should be extremely attractive.

As we have seen, Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the way in which the art industry conducts business. Reinventing the industry and trying to think forward in terms of marketing concepts is an important driver for the future of the art market. Small art galleries should look back on the lessons they learned from the pandemic and understand that it is not necessarily essential to the business model to retain a long-term lease on a physical art gallery space. For some small-sized galleries, it might make more financial sense to expand their online presence and use small-term leasing spaces for special events and temporary exhibitions, thereby reducing their overall overhead costs.

Here are some important points that a gallery should consider when deciding whether to open a short-term lease or pop-up gallery space.

Have a concept in mind

Before your art gallery goes out opening a temporary gallery space, it is important to have a clear idea in mind of what you want out of that space. The whole notion of the pop-up gallery is that the space is used for a limited amount of time, so it’s best to have your intentions and goals set before you pull the trigger on a rental space.

Create a financial plan

As we have noted, limiting overhead costs helps ensure a successful art gallery business model. The entire idea of shifting away from long-term gallery spaces towards short-term leases is to free up capital and reduce rental costs. Creating a detailed budget and financial plan for these temporary spaces helps ensure that the exhibition or event that your gallery plans on holding will be profitable.

Pick a time and location

One of the most important decision factors that an art gallery will take in this process is selecting just exactly when and where they want their space to be. Timing and location are crucial as galleries want to maximize the visibility that they draw from the limited amount of time they have to showcase their art. The best strategy your gallery can take is to know exactly which audience and client-base your program is for and choosing a time and location that aligns with their interests.

©Parasol Projects

Who can help galleries find short-term leases and pop-up spaces?

One company that helps art galleries find temporary spaces for their exhibitions and events is Storefront. As one of the world’s largest marketplaces for short-term rental spaces, Storefront helps online businesses, artists, and commercial brands connect with space owners for short-term rentals. With locations around the world, art galleries can easily choose from the suite of spaces available on the site to find the perfect fit for their pop-up space.

Another company which offers pop-up spaces while adding the benefit of providing assistance in the planning process is New York-based Parasol Projects. The company has full control over all of their spaces through long-term leases or exclusive management agreements and offers inhouse production and marketing teams for full assistance in the promotion of upcoming pop-up gallery spaces.

What the future holds for art galleries

While I am confident that galleries around the globe will continue to utilize long-term leases for the exhibition of the art, we have seen that there are several other avenues galleries can take to showcase their works of art. Investing into the online marketing space coupled with short-term leasing options might be an attractive option for emerging art galleries who struggle to make a profit and want to find new ways to reduce their overhead costs.

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