Although occurring only one week and a few blocks apart from each other, recent shows by No Kings Collective and by Hole in the Sky DC exemplify a natural partition in today’s pop up art gallery scene. Both hold different atmospheres, experiences, and takeaways despite the common goal of showcasing local artists.
“Hustle 2.0” by No Kings Collective was the second iteration of last year’s show of the same name, and sought to exude the theme of “hustle” through a polished and cool event. When asked the inspiration for the event, a staff member stated that No Kings put together the show to showcase their local DC artist friends and the hustle they take in their careers, as well as fomenting some hustle of its own. The featured local artists included new work from one of my favorites, the graphic Superwaxx, while the event seemed to focus on a well curated set of pop-up activities. This included live screenprinted (amazingly designed) posters by Typecase Industries, an art-centric vending machine, a surprisingly intuitive dj, and a full bar. No Kings Collective seemingly attempted the theme of “hustle” equally through the exhibit and the activities - the event was a fully curated experience.
The opposite of this polished curation was the d.i.y. attitude of “Artshow_15: Comix” by Hole In the Sky DC. This NoMa artists’ collective used their space to showcase local art inspired by comics, or the elements of “sequential art and visual storytelling,” as identified by the collective. Instead of carefully selected and planned pop-up activities, this event relied on attending artists and affordable take home prints for entertainment. This make-your-own-experience entertainment paid off immensely, with nearly all visitors taking the collective up on their BYOB invitation. The event was filled to capacity with artwork, meaningful conversations, and DC locals choosing to spend their Saturday night effortlessly in this atmosphere. Many visitors took pieces home, purchasing directly from the walls or from setup tables. Innovatively, purchases were made directly from the artists themselves. This indirectly caused conversation- while selecting a favorite piece, $10-art-collectors got to speak to the artist who made their chosen piece without having to come up with a forced beginning. Conversation was easy, and as d.i.y, as the event itself.
These events were extremely different, but are both necessary and important. “Hustle 2.0” offered a curated experience, turning a rented NoMa warehouse into an installation of itself, including the styled and chic visitors themselves. Experiences had by visitors were unique and heavily instagrammed, popularizing a new, graphic, and artistic way to spend a Friday night. “Artshow_15: Comix” was its own form of hustle, rife with easy and important conversation, new and varied art, and artists excited to engage with both insiders and newcomers to DC ‘s rising art scene.
Without the polished work of No Kings Collective, stylized experiences wouldn’t occur to push hustling artists to the forefront while pushing visitors to go further in their own hustle. Hole In the Sky Collective very significantly infuses the atmosphere of a neighborhood saturday night with new art and down-to-earth, talented artists. More events like these are what will make DC’s art scene richer both in audience demographics and in visitors’ experiences.