Food trucks have become popular for a reason. For entrepreneurs, they’re budget-friendly (no need to invest in a full restaurant space) and they allow for reaching a larger group of customers (you go to them). For consumers, we’ve gotten food that’s creative, meals that don’t break the bank and are a little different than what might have been our lunch options if we lived in a food truck-free world.
What if the same mobile concept was applied to art? Would it benefit us in the same way?
That’s the idea behind the new wave of mobile art galleries, essentially like food trucks, except you get to look at and experience art instead of eating a burrito.
The idea is simple: buy a truck, outfit it to accommodate art, drive to and park it in specific locations, invite the masses. This allows them to change up the usual art scene, and bring art to people that might not always be the gallery type. According to a profile piece in the New York Times, “In interviews, mobile owners say they are trying to avoid the confines – and politics – of the gallery system; to help people think about art in different ways; or to reach more communities, especially those with young and old people who tend not to visit art districts.”
How many mobile art galleries are there? Can we call it a full-blown movement yet? The New York Times says things are rolling in the right direction.
“While statistics on mobile galleries are hard to come by, social media shows the trend catching on in Los Angeles; Seattle; Santa Fe, N.M.; Tampa Bay, Fla.; Chicago; and even Alberta, where a ’60s teardrop-red trailer presents works from a changing lineup of local artists. Pinterest boards show a range of designs on pages dedicated to mobile galleries, and Twitter is full of people advertising their whereabouts with hashtags such as #keeptrucking. Ann Fensterstock, a lecturer on contemporary art and the author of “Art on the Block,” a history of New York art galleries, said these galleries are ‘part of the zeitgeist of this moment in art creating.’”
While owning a gallery can mean a serious investment, owning a mobile gallery is entirely different. Elise Graham, of the New York-based Rodi Gallery truck, says she pays $395 per month for her truck, insurance and gas.
Those cost savings allow the gallery to take on more unknown artists, and be a little more progressive in what they choose to show. Instead of being concerned that the public will love a show enough to buy all the pieces, they can test the waters with new art, often going the route of showing things that are more conceptual.
The art world isn’t convinced that the mobile gallery movement is going to take hold, partly because being a thriving artist tends to mean having commercial representation. This is where the art truck concept might not hold its own. “If you are going to spend serious money on a painting, I think you want a committed gallery backing it,” Andrew Russeth, editor of Gallerist, the New York Observer’s art site, told the New York Times. “So I think that’s where the truck thing breaks down.”
But while art trucks may have their limitations, let’s focus on the possibilities. Bringing art to deserted lots. Bringing art to strip mall parking lots. Bringing art to nursing homes. Bringing art to schools. Art could literally pop up anywhere, and that’s something to be excited about.
Photo Credit: Ben Husmann