Provocative ideas are not new. Today there seems to be more resistance than ever to the status quo. Traditional methods in art, architecture, science and history are being challenged. Questions like, “Who needs a museum? “ or, ”Who says exhibits need to only be in a museum?” are asking us to find inspiration in new ways and places.
In this era of social media and self-publishing, it is true that exhibits no longer have to be held in traditional galleries or museums. In fact, social media allows artists to show their work instantly to a global audience. But even so, a scale issue remains that can only be resolved by seeing artwork in person. Pop-up exhibits are a great way of creating temporary—and quickly installed—art events for a very short period of time, with a low budget and little space. But what are they exactly and where does one find them?
The idea of pop-up exhibits began in New York City about 10 years ago (Du Cros & Joliffe, 2014), where gallery and museum space has always been scarce and held at a premium. Often found outside or in odd spaces, pop-up exhibits are less formal and less expensive to produce than traditional exhibits. Temporary art installations can be seen on building walls, on boats, or between buildings. Today, they are not only found in New York, but Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris and many other places around the world. Even in Kent and Columbus Ohio!
Tiny natural history museum in a Tribeca Elevator Shaft, 2014
Photograph: Jeremy Delgado
The underpinnings for pop-up exhibits can be traced to the Avant Garde movement of the early 20th century where art expression of the Dadaists were critiquing the status quo of the new industrial society. This group created a new relationship between artists and viewers which challenged viewers to think about what they are seeing rather than just being a passive observer. The work of these artists was cutting edge, innovative and unexpected. It was seen as the hallmark of Modernism where new forms of cultural expression were used to describe a changing world.
A parklet in Hall Street, Bondi Beach. Australia
Photograph: SAMA design
Pop-up exhibits take the idea of challenging the establishment even further. If the Avant Garde movement was a transition to modernism, where mainstream theories of cultural expression were being challenged in favor of new forms of expression, pop-up art can be seen as a nod to post-modernism, where all individuals are given a voice to challenge the status quo. Pop-up exhibits, then, are an expression of the moment; an individual reaction to surrounding circumstances. So today, as museums are seen as the decision-makers on trends and taste, pop-up exhibits can be viewed as individual truths that provoke or inspire us. In fact, pop-up exhibits can now be seen in all kinds of venues that include architecture, history and science. Performance art like flash mobs, tiny one-night restaurants, juice bars, parking spots with gardens and anything else you can imagine are literally popping up everywhere. Individual expression of the moment is here to stay. So go outside and discover new ideas… you never know where you are going to find new perspective or inspiration.
For more information on Pop-up Exhibits, click here.
Du Cros, H. and Joliffe, L. (30 May 2014). The Arts and Events (pp. 40-43). London: Routledge.