Just like a title for a book, a theme for an art show focuses the work and triggers the curiosity and interest of art lovers and buyers. The theme is a powerful marketing tool to attract viewers and buyers and choosing a captivating theme can be the key to the success of the show. Given the strong market competition, galleries strive to find appealing and compelling themes to continuously attract old and new clients.
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Choosing the Theme
It is important that the artist and the gallery agree on the theme. This will inspire the artist on the work that needs to be done and spur the gallery to maximize marketing and promotion for the show. Often the gallery will suggest a theme, but the artist can also originate one. The gallery will be more interested if the artist has a client following who has expressed or shown interest in a particular theme.
In general, a theme can be anything that inspires the artist and represents a through-line, a common denominator of all the work that takes part in the show. As a solo the artist is not bound by other artists and the important thing is that the theme inspires the artist's passion and gets full backing by the gallery.
If the gallery likes a limited selection of the artist’s work, then the artist and the gallery can collaborate to find and develop a theme based on the selected work. Just as the theme must be commercially enticing for the gallery, it must be inspiring for the artist, so that the artist can then produce more work within the agreed-upon theme.
Whether you are a painter or a sculptor, the key is to make your theme personal. The more personal the theme will be to the artist, the more the work will stand out from other work and other similar themes.
You could focus on a place such as a city, a region, a country, a neighborhood, a park or a planet. But if the city is the city where the artist was born or where a critical moment of his or her life took place, then the work will be more poignant and the theme will have more pull on the public.
If the artist has a personal connection with person or group who inspires their theme, then the show will be more powerful. The person can be well-known or unknown, living or dead, but what’s important is the personal specific connection to the artist.
The artist will also provide a bio and a write-up, where he or she will explain why and how the theme is personal and give all the pertinent information and details that will enhance the interest from the buyers.
Or an artist can work a theme around an object or idea, such as an event, a concept (like compassion or laughter or isolation or relationships), a color, a season, a cause, or light and darkness.
A theme can be a specific time period of work of the artist. For example work made after a certain age, or after a certain event, or work made during a certain number of years. It can be before or after a certain style change.
A theme is also the material used for the installation or art work. Work on paper, wood or glass are theme examples.
A theme can be the specific style or school the work belongs to.
A Theme Example
A way to attract both public interest and gallery attention is to look around your neighborhood or community and see what attractions or history or common interest is available to be a theme for your show. An example of the success of this type of theme can be the Community Arts Center in New Orleans, with its thematic exhibition “Bird-Space: A Post-Audubon Artist Aviary,” where all work deals with birds.