How One Artist Succeeded with a Pop-Up Gallery

Canadian photographer Jennifer Irving planned and produced a pop-up gallery event to display and sell her work to the public. Here’s how she achieved outstanding results.

 

 "Wild We Roam" pop-up gallery featuring Jennifer Irving's photography.

“Wild We Roam” pop-up gallery featuring Jennifer Irving’s photography.

 

With a background as a commercial photographer working mainly for magazines and publications, Jennifer Irving changed course and entered the fine art photography arena. Her mission as a photographer is to capture images of wild horses in locations all over the world. Her photography emphasizes the natural elegance and beauty of these equines while drawing attention to their precarious situation living in threatened environments.

 

"Steadfast" from "Wild We Roam" photography series by Jennifer Irving.

“Steadfast” from “Wild We Roam” photography series by Jennifer Irving.

 

Irving took a proactive stance with her business, and decided to present and sell her work directly to the public in a self-sponsored pop-up gallery setting. She found a suitable space in Saint John, New Brunswick located in a central shopping area near popular restaurants, bars and clubs. Calling it the “perfect location” she rented the space for a span of several days that coincided with weekend Gallery Hop and Moonlight Bazaar events slated to draw thousands.

 

"Consort" photo of Sable Island horses by Jennifer Irving

“Consort” from “Wild We Roam” photography series by Jennifer Irving

 

Building a Team

Planning started several months ahead of time. Irving decided to go big by assembling a team of experts who could help her create the perfect atmosphere to present her photography to a public audience. She hired a graphic artist to create branding for invitations and a poster. An event planner was engaged to handle every detail of managing the weekend, and a caterer was brought in to plan a healthy menu of appetizers to be served.

Irving found a publicist to pitch the local media, who landed a radio interview and a newspaper feature that brought traffic into the venue. A videographer filmed the opening, with the intention of making a video for future promotions. A photographer shot stills of the pop-up gallery setting and activity during the weekend. Two assistants worked as greeters, helped with set up, processed payments, and performed other tasks.

 

Entrance to the pop-up gallery in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

Entrance to the pop-up gallery in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

 

Setup for the event took an entire day, with a framer and carpenter making sure that her artwork was presented and placed correctly. Many pieces were large, and needed support when hung on the old brick walls inside the rented space. Other displays were set up to hold boxed notecards and gift sets of 11” x 14” prints for sale as alternative products. The artist says, “I am blessed to have not only such a great team that helped put this on but more so, great friends who basically took over on my behalf and put their best efforts behind me. They were incredible.I couldn’t have done it without them.”

 

Jennifer Irving meets with visitors to the pop-up gallery.

Jennifer Irving meets with visitors to the pop-up gallery.

 

Running the Event

During the pop-up event, Irving spoke with people who stopped in, sharing the story behind her equine photography, and making connections. She explains, “As folks wandered around the gallery, a conversation would inevitably strike up about the backstory to the photos taken on Sable Island. From unpredictable weather to low tech ways to check if the beach was safe to land the plane on, I think a lot of people have thought about going to Sable Island. Getting a firsthand account was part of the appeal.”

In the pop-up gallery, a guestbook was present to collect names and email addresses of interested shoppers. Each one received a post-show thank you message, and will be on her email marketing list going forward.

 

A gallery visitors shops for prints.

A gallery visitors shops for prints.

 

During the two-day sale period, artwork was not packaged or carried out, but marked with red dots to indicate that it was sold. All artwork was delivered after the event. This gave Irving the opportunity to hang the work herself in customers’ homes while getting to know them better. These personalized efforts help her to establish a relationship with collectors and grow her network. She also gave packages of notecards and envelopes to customers who purchased wall art as a thank you gift. Each notecard has her website URL on the back, and will act as an “ambassador” for her photography to every card recipient.

Sales exceeded expectations at the pop-up event. Numerous large photographs sold and orders were placed by customers from brochures available in the pop-up gallery. The printed brochure is also in digital form, and acts as a media kit available on Irving’s website as a downloadable marketing piece.

 

Magazines and other collateral help tell the story of the wild horses photographed by Jennifer Irving.

Magazines and other collateral help tell the story of the wild horses photographed by Jennifer Irving.

 

Getting Results

The time, effort and attention to detail in sponsoring her own pop-up gallery event paid off. Irving has received invitations for solo and group show opportunities from several gallery owners who learned about her exhibit through the media and came in person to view her work. She recalls, “I was asked by a gallery owner in another city to do a solo show in the spring. She decided to put a few pieces up until then to get a buzz going. This is her gallery’s first solo photography show.”

The exposure garnered from this effort has opened numerous doors for the artist. First, however, she is headed to France to photograph more wild horses. That project will be released as a new photography collection. In addition, she says, “I want to continue researching, traveling and photographing wild horses around the world. I want to bring the best of that work back to share in galleries and on my website. I have a list of twenty locations where there are known wild herds, including Sri Lanka, Iceland, and Australia.  I’m also creating products for my clients such as notecards and a ‘Wild We Roam’ photo book.”

With a solid team behind her, and smart marketing and sales strategies in place, Jennifer Irving is poised and ready to find success in her next venture.

 

 

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YES PLEASE!

 

Comments

  1. The article did not mention the cost of setting up the pop-up show.
    How can this be estimated to ensure a profit?

  2. Hi Donna, great question! The nice thing with a pop-up gallery is that you can scale up or down. I actually had no idea how well it would do! The biggest cost was printing and framing. However, even if I didn’t sell anything I would still have the inventory to sell at a later date. I also spent money on catering, the rental space, marketing material, and a few people to help out. Depending on how much you want to spend you could always find ways to do it more cost efficiently. You could find a free space, ask for volunteers, create your own marketing material and press release, take food and beverage into your own hands or not offer food at all. Also, you can always barter your product or service. For estimating the profit, it’s really a guessing game but you can also put the odds in your favour! I chose a weekend where there was a ton of foot traffic in the area. I also sent out invitations to my network and promoted it on social media. I did a radio interview and that also attracted people. Hope this answers your question. Jennifer

  3. Skill work, Good management, & supportive creative team together bring out a successful pop-up show.
    Great work

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