July 12, 2009 | Alyson Stanfield

Take Over a Vacant Storefront–Legally

This economy is producing surprising opportunities for those who are willing to think outside of the box.

Take for instance, artists in the United Kingdom who are turning vacant storefronts into what are being called “pop-up galleries.” The name aptly describes art spaces that show up out of nowhere and then, Poof!, disappear after an exhibit closes.


Jackie Tice
Jackie Tice, Light Beam.
Oil on canvas, 72 x 24 inches.
©The Artist

The spaces for pop-up galleries are given to artists and curators to exhibit art at no charge. The arrangement is a win-win-win for all involved. First, these phantom galleries are a solution for landlords and property managers who try to keep empty spaces attractive to potential renters. Second, city leaders embrace them because they make shopping areas more appealing and bring in new visitors. Finally, pop-up galleries are another chance for artists to show their work in an art world witnessing the demise of numerous galleries and exhibit spaces. As an artist trying to build a reputation, you want to get your work out there as often as possible.

Why not steal this idea and take over a vacant storefront as an exhibit space?

To gain access to these promising art venues, keep your eyes peeled in high-traffic areas. Unoccupied spaces usually have signs in the windows with a number to call about leasing. Rehearse your proposal and pick up the phone.

The worst that can happen is that someone can say No.

KNOW THIS———-~> There are opportunities in this economy if you’re open to thinking differently.

THINK ABOUT THIS—~> Are there empty commercial spaces in your town?

DO THIS————~> Take over a storefront–legally. If you organize an exhibit in a temporary space, remember that you’re a guest of the landlord. Your gallery is open only as long as his or her generosity lasts. Be a good tenant in every way and accept the limits of the agreement. Building owners know the local commercial real estate market well and would likely recommend other locations if you work well together.

Share your thoughts about this article and seizing opportunities in this economy, and listen to the podcast on the Art Biz Blog.

8 comments add a comment
  • […] Arrange to show your art in a bank, building lobby, or a vacant storefront. Request a date for an opening […]

  • Xan

    I have to thank you for this idea. I’ll be opening my first pop-up gallery on Nov. 27th in downtown Bellingham, WA because your post put this great idea in my head.
    Now, if I can just get some artwork done in time! The business of starting a business, finding a venue, doing the prep work, the advertising, the solicitation of donations (it’s a benefit show), the recruiting of artists, figuring out insurance, finding, buying or making or borrowing gallery furniture (gridwalls, lighting, power cords, pedestals, tables …), producing signage … I’ll plan a little further in advance for the next outing!
    If you want to follow along, come see me at the Sudden Gallery blog: http://suddengallery.wordpress.com/
    Or at the website: http://www.suddengallery.com
    Thanks again!

  • Rez

    I recently started planning a group art exhibit and am under a limited budget..this could definitely help.

  • thankyou for these suggestions, there are so many times I wonder about doing something like this then chicken out. sometimes I even look at vacant office spaces and think of doing a popup art fair! next time I’ll screw up my courage :)

    you say the worst thing they can say is no.. my brother in law always says the worst thing they can say is yes- because then you have to do something! No is the easy answer, yes, well, yes is the beginning to a whole load of possibilities!

  • FYI, the Subscribe link on your web site currently just displays a screen full of html.



  • […] someone whose work you admire and organize a 2-person exhibit or collaborate on a single […]

  • This is a great idea, one which I have been thinking about doing, so I am glad to read about it (didn’t really know others were doing this). Think this would be great both for individuals and for organizations which don’t have their own gallery space, or enough, or in the right place. In our city, there is a very active “arts district” where there are monthly gallery hops, which draw large crowds, and this area also has lots of empty storefronts. Looks to me like a GOLDEN opportunity for a weekend-long popup gallery.

  • Wish me luck. I’m going to approach a couple of the building owners in Nanaimo to see if I could use their vacant space/s for a show. We get a lot of summer tourists and cruise ship people in September who spend a lot of time wandering our downtown art centre.
    Thanks for the push,

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