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Exhibition hosting partnership models: venue and promoter collaborations

A conversation with Claire Couriol from GL events

Parc Expo Stratsbourg © Bartosch Salmanski
Parc Expo Stratsbourg © Bartosch Salmanski

from Lyon, France

reading time 5 minutes

Claire Couriol, Cultural development manager at GL events, shares a perspective on collaborations between cultural venues and promoters, shedding light on a diversity of models facilitating the presentation of international travelling exhibitions in international event venues.
Teo: Your organisation, GL events Venues, manages and operates a network of 57 event venues in more than 25 locations internationally. You and your team manage the programme of La Sucrière, a cultural venue which has established itself as a key location for cultural events in the city of Lyon, in France. International exhibitions are regularly presented at La Sucrière. GL events venues is developing its hosting strategy within its network, with upcoming exhibitions in several cities. Could you tell us about the specificities of these venues and the type of exhibitions they welcome?

Claire Couriol: The venues we manage are multipurpose event destinations such as convention centres, exhibition centres and arenas. They are very diverse in shape and capacity. La Sucrière is for example an old sugar factory which has been reconverted into an event and culture venue on the Saone river banks in Lyon, with 1700sqm dedicated to cultural exhibitions.

Our venues are designed to welcome a large variety of events, including trade shows, congresses and conventions, festivals, corporate events and international exhibitions. La Sucrière has been welcoming international cultural exhibitions for more than 10 years. Since Star Wars Identities, the first travelling exhibition we hosted, we have presented more than 20 exhibitions, with productions such as Tutankhamun. Discovering the Forgotten Pharaoh, Elliott Erwitt, Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince among Humans or Genesis by Sebastiao Salgado. Currently we are presenting Japan Passion, in collaboration with Tempora and Europa Expo.

How do you bring these international experiences and collections to your venues? Could you tell us about the specific collaboration framework that leads to these presentations?

The hosting of exhibitions is based on the same framework as for the hosting of non-cultural events, but here with longer occupancy periods: the venue is rented by an event promoter or an exhibition producer, usually for a period of 3 to 6 months. Sometimes even up to 9 months. The promoter brings the exhibition to the venue. They install the exhibition they have produced, or an exhibition they are hiring from an exhibition producer. In both cases, they oversee the installation, the communication, the development of programming and related events. It is very important to us to provide a large autonomy to the promoter in the management of the daily operations that guarantee the success of the exhibition.

We welcome exhibitions which bring meaningful new narratives and discoveries to our local scene, and fit very well in our long term programming.

Centre de Congrès de Metz - Wilmotte Architectes - 2018
How do you select the projects that come to your sites? Do you have the ability to curate the programme with your team?

Yes, this is an essential part of what we do. We work in close dialogue with the stakeholders of our network, locally, regionally and internationally, to create a very unique programme of exhibitions at our venues. This schedule is curated by our team so that it matches the positioning, the approach of our venue, and is very well suited to our local audiences. We welcome exhibitions which bring meaningful new narratives and discoveries to our local scene, and fit very well in our long term programming.

So the promoters create and run the exhibition. How do they collaborate with your team, do you support them with your local knowledge, for instance for communication to local audiences, or for the hiring of local staff for operations?

When a promoter hires the venue, they access a full suite of support services which are designed to support the activation of their exhibition. It’s a format you classically find in most of our event venues, in our exhibition centres as well as in our dedicated cultural venues such as La Sucrière. What’s interesting with this approach is that the promoter benefits from a ready to use space, which they can adapt easily to create exhibition rooms and create a visitor journey. They also can rely on local safety frameworks, as well as AV, furniture, and sometimes ticketing and welcome desks services. Venue teams share insights into local audiences and provide full assistance to create a successful communication campaign, relying on the strong knowledge about local audiences and channels to reach them they have developed. One of our most important contributions is the ability of our local teams to connect promoters to their network of public and private partners to ensure strong support from local key stakeholders.

La Sucrière © Nicolas Robin

We are able to build an economic model that depends on the success of the exhibition.

Economically how does it work, how are the business models defined for this type of collaboration?

In addition to our services tailored to cultural activities and our ability to offer promoters visibility over successive tour dates and locations, we have also adapted our sales approach to take into account the specific issues faced by these organisations. The first point is to create a cultural development mission, of which I am a member, which will centralise requests to facilitate relations with cultural players, offer them an accurate view of the facilities and availabilities in our network and then interface with all our sites in order to facilitate and to accelerate decisions.

When it comes to the business model, we also take a partnership approach, because we believe in the projects we host. We are able to maintain competitive rental fees and build an economic model that depends on the success of the exhibition.

Are you looking at developing this collaboration model internationally, within your network of event venues?

Our long-term aim is to develop solid partnerships with producers and promoters of cultural content who are interested in touring our sites on an international scale. We are starting to do this in France, where the Tutankhamun exhibition has begun a tour in Lyon before moving on to Strasbourg and then perhaps to another site in the network. In the future, we would like to extend these tours internationally, and give the opportunity to the promoters to consider international destinations such as Turin, Brussels, The Hague or even Rio, Santiago, Johannesburg or Guangzu.

About Claire Couriol
About Claire Couriol

Specialised in cultural projects management, Claire Couriol has been accompanying national and international project leaders for more than 15 years. Since 2022, Claire Couriol has been overseeing the development of cultural activities in the venues of the GL events group, with the ambition to develop culture and entertainment in all the territories in which the group is present.

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