Architecture & Real Estate | December 4, 2021 6:30 am

The Future of Retail Might Involve a Lot More Pop-Up Exhibits

Alternately, the future of retail might include less retail

Retail space for lease
Pedestrians walk past a vacant storefront along the Magnificent Mile shopping district on October 21, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

What can we expect from retail spaces in the years to come? With Amazon growing and growing and the pandemic having altered shopping habits, it’s been a challenging time for both store owners and building owners who would prefer to keep spaces in their buildings occupied. It’s enough to leave you wondering just what might be taking the place of a shuttered storefront in the near future.

Turns out the answer to that might be “a pop-up museum.” A new article by Sophie Haigney at Curbed explores a growing trend of companies renting out vacant storefronts for months at a time and setting up traveling exhibits. The article opens by referencing an exhibit of Banksy’s work currently situated in New York City, in a space that was once home to an Urban Outfitters.

“What you’re doing is you’re making their space live again,” Mario Iacampo told Curbed. Iacampo is the CEO of Exhibition Hub, which co-produced the Banksy show along with a host of other art-themed pop-ups. As the article notes, it’s left some real estate owners rethinking the way they approach some of their spaces — in other words, maybe a shop with a 10-year lease isn’t feasible right now, but a series of pop-ups would be.

Some of this may sound familiar, and the debates sparked by pop-up exhibits in retail spaces aren’t necessarily new. You may recall coverage of the Museum of Ice Cream five years ago, and the musings it prompted on the evolution of retail. But given the pandemic’s effects on nearly all aspects of social interaction, it’s not surprising to see that discourse returning, with more emphasis than before.