In a previous post, we shared the story of Finchittida Finch’sdf pop-up: a shop developed from scratch by a previously online-only business. This week we’re happy to introduce Atomica Gallery (@atomicagallery), one of the few truly pop-up art galleries which ran from December 4th – 24th this past holiday season. They’ve recently secured a long-term space in Hackney and we were eager to know what the journey has been like to go from pop-up to full shop.
We met up with Atomica Gallery founders Orla and Holly over coffee and brownies to hear more about what it is like to be a start-up gallery, and how the pop-up model has helped facilitate their goals and opened new doors. Holly is an experienced gallerist, working in both Sydney and Los Angeles with a number of the artists they currently show. And Orla’s background in promotion and events ensures that their openings generate a healthy buzz. Their penchant for the strange, retro, punk and pop combined in curious and lovely ways at their December pop-up. The relentless attention to detail both within the works themselves as well as their weird and simple curation proved that big explosions can be contained in small packages.
Orla and Holly came to their selected artists in an unconventional way, “Some of the artists we show have been close to us for a very long time. But we also love showcasing previously un-seen artists or those that may never have been shown in London before.” It was clear that a real challenge of curating a show with so many great artists to choose from – especially in a concise space – is the selection. For their pop-up, Holly and Orla printed out copies of all of their favorite artists’ work (hundreds!) and went through the process of whittling down to just a select few. But they are constantly on the hunt for yet-to-be-discovered artists in the UK and beyond, “We have a huge list of artists that we want to work with. We stumble across a lot of amazing artists through blogs and circumstance. So it’s not like we only want to work with established names, and we are always open to chance.”
The Inside of Atomica Gallery’s Pop-up in Shoreditch
An Advisor at Hackney Business Enterprise encouraged Atomica to do pop-ups as a way to ‘test-trade.’ By launching a new project this way, fresh businesses are able to develop a strong sense of themselves and learn through experience without the risks and investment required for longer-term rentals. But sourcing a great space, for the short or long-term, is always a challenge.
Holly explained the difficulties they had locating and accessing the right spot for their pop-up, “When we were looking for our December pop-up space, it was really stressful. We thought of many potential places around East London initially, but as it was our first big showcase we wanted an area with high traffic, and that was already warm to the idea of a pop-up. Getting exposure and building a following was one of the most important things we hoped to achieve with our pop-up. Shoreditch seemed like an ideal part of town to get the kinds of visibility and interest we needed.” And so they set about with an unconventional campaign: dropping 1-page offers reading “We Would Like To Rent Your Shop,” into the mail slots of every suitable shop.
Atomica’s Elegant Solution To Driving Footfall
Orla explained, “We got quite a few calls back, but a lot of people didn’t even know what a pop-up was, or else they expected that we would want the space over many months, and expected us to provide full fit-outs. A few weeks with minimal developments to the space was a hard sell. But we found a great place eventually.” While their pop-up was a success in terms of sales and exposure, their extensive list of artists and a growing catalogue of work meant that a longer-term space was in order.
Their new shop is part of a series of newly converted shop-spaces managed by Hackney Downs Studios. These new locations are playing host to a series of new businesses, from bikes to a bakery and all within 5 minutes from Kingsland Road – one of the busiest streets in the area. Their full-time shop will launch soon (stay tuned on the Atomica Gallery website), but future pop-ups are still a part of Orla and Holly’s future plans, “Because we’re off the beaten track in Hackney, it will give us a great opportunity to connect with a local audience. But we also want to make sure Atomica Gallery can travel to other parts of London and beyond. Some in West and South London, and we’re also thinking about Brighton. We haven’t confirmed anything yet, but doing a kind of tour would be great – a few days or weekends in new locations. We really want to make sure we have a chance to showcase our artists in places that wouldn’t see their work otherwise.”
Atomica Gallery’s Founders: Orla and Holly
We asked where Atomica Gallery saw itself a few years down the line. Holly shared, “we have done this all on our own. We’re slightly in debt but it’s working. Our new shop is quite a small one. Our dream is to have two, so that we could have simultaneous projects on. The initial plan was to have ‘art for sale’ in one location seven days a week, and then a second with rotating exhibitions. We’re learning as we go. Every week is a learning experience. Anything can happen, really.”
We’re eager for their new shop to launch, and we’ll see you at the opening!