Art exhibits can generate awareness and fan engagement for entertainment/character properties with enough content and history to support this sort of experiential initiative. A few examples from this year and last illustrate some of the elements that are common to such ventures, as well as the unique twists that are possible depending on the nature of the property:
- The Yu-Gi-Oh Tribute Art Show, put together by Konami Cross Media and Gallery1988, has taken place this summer and fall, first in Los Angeles in conjunction with Anime Expo and then this month in New York alongside New York Comic Con. The exhibit, which marks the property’s 20th anniversary, includes more than 60 commissioned works of art by 50 artists attached to Gallery1988, all inspired by the property, plus new images from Yu-Gi-Oh creator Kazuki Takahashi. The venture also features an immersive installation from Pretty in Plastic, artist appearances, free buttons for the first 100 attendees, limited-edition prints for sale, and signings by Yu-Gi-Oh voice actors.
- The Popeye 90th Anniversary Art Exhibition, a collaboration between King Features, its Asian sub-agent Medialink, and Yoho!, took place in Beijing’s Joy City Mall in August. More than 100 pieces in various styles and media, created by 50 artists from 12 countries, were included, ranging from traditional art styles to pop-culture pieces such as collectibles and technology, to a vintage sailboat. A range of limited-edition merchandise was available as well.
- Disney’s Mickey: The True Original Exhibition, was held in New York in 2018, as part of the character’s 90th anniversary celebration. It featured 23 artists working in a variety of genres, from street artists to video game designers, including Keith Haring, Ariana Papademetropoulos, and Tetsuyo Nomura. One installation by Kenny Scharf was an immersive Cosmic Cavern inspired by the Mickey Mouse watch. The three-month-long, 16,000-square-foot experience incorporated an extensive merchandise component including exhibit-themed memorabilia from mouse-ear hats to high-end collectibles, customizable items, products from event sponsors, and periodic drops of capsule collections in collaboration with names such as Vans and Rag & Bone.
- Harry Potter: A History of Magic, held in 2018 at the British Library in London and the New-York Historical Society, was curated by the British Library in cooperation with the Historical Society, licensor Warner Bros., publisher Scholastic, and author J.K. Rowling. The exhibit highlighted artwork from Rowling and Scholastic, including original cover and interior art by Mary GrandPré, Brian Selznick, and Kazu Kibuishi created for various editions of the book. It also featured first-edition books, manuscripts, and artifacts about magic from both museums’ archives, billed as the sorts of things students at Hogwarts would study. Activities such as art and creative writing workshops, trivia nights, open mics, book clubs, and courses “exploring the Hogwarts curriculum” were held in conjunction with the exhibit.
Other properties that have been featured in similar exhibits around the world over the past decade include Care Bears, Star Trek, SpongeBob, Family Guy, The Wizard of Oz, Power Rangers, Wallace & Gromit, Angry Birds, Hello Kitty, The Three Stooges, Paul Frank’s Julius, and The Smurfs, among others.