Dallas gets a new art gallery Saturday, but only for a few months. The founders of PopUp 310 tell KERA’s Stephen Becker why they would open a gallery guaranteed to close:
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Less than a week before PopUp 310 opens, and there’s no electricity and not a single piece of art is in place.
But James Cope, one of the gallery’s founders, surveys the empty storefront and has a vision of what it will soon be.
COPE: “These raised platforms will be stages for unique works … On the left or the right side – depending on how you look at it – will be a lot of multiples or editions. This raised desk area will be a lot of t-shirts and books and things like that. … And then we’re gonna use this for a little video projection area.”
The idea behind popup galleries is to take a vacant space and dress it up. The location for Popup 310 became available when a gardening store closed down in Dallas’ West Village shopping district. Rather than leave the storefront empty, the West Village is allowing Cope and his partner in the gallery, Brian Gibb, to stage a series of art shows there.
GIBB: “From their standpoint … they can have nothing in here and this be a dark space and just kind of a giant hole, which is what it is. It faces McKinney, and that just looks bad for a retail environment. This is the kind of thing you can do while you search for a tenet. “
Popup 310 is a side project for both of its founders. Cope works full-time as a curatorial associate with the Goss-Michael Foundation. Gibb owns The Public Trust Gallery in Deep Ellum.
Their agreement with the West Village allows them to use the space rent-free until June, unless a new tenant is found sooner. Cope and Gibb cover all of the utilities and other expenses for the gallery and will pay the West Village a percentage of their sales.
Both men envision Popup 310 as a place to develop new collectors. From that perspective, the high-traffic spot next to Polo Ralph Lauren and across the street from Brooks Brothers helps. But the gallery will also feature a number of works at a price point more accessible to people new to buying art.
COPE: “The next generation of collectors just doesn’t happen over night. You’re not just going to go in and like, ‘Oh, I like that, I’ll buy it, it’s $50,000. You’ve got to start somewhere. Maybe they like a print for $50? … I think doing something like this in this kind of mainstream area, there’s that potential there.”
Developing new collectors also involves tearing down people’s preconceptions of the art world as a pretentious, insular universe. Even Gibb admits he’s turned off by the twentysomething New York gallery workers – gallerinias as he calls them – who look down their nose at him, doubtful that he’s going to buy.
GIBB: “We really want this to be a really inviting, friendly environment that’s kind of like the antithesis of people’s perception of the art world at large as this really elitist place. … We want to engage with people, talk to them about the work and the artist and the intent and really get people excited about art and starting to collect it.”
Or even not collecting it.
Another element of Popup 310 that excites its founders is its potential to let artists experiment with new materials for site-specific installations. Gibb says that installations are tough to pull off because they typically take a lot of planning but rarely result in a sale.
GIBB: “But here, if someone comes in and says, ‘I want to make a sandcastle out of peanut butter, but it probably won’t last more than 48 hours or something,’ we’re like, ‘Cool, let’s do it.’ “
Popup 310 opens on Saturday with a reception for its first show. After that, the plan is to have a new exhibition up every two weeks.
Unless, of course, the West Village finds a new tenant for the space.
If that happens, 310’s founders say that’s OK. They’ll just find another place to pop up.