I have a big gripe that has been festering since the early 1990s when I was a curator.
That was a long time ago, but as best I can remember, two women artists proposed an exhibition with the theme of trees. It was to be an exhibit women artists working with the tree theme. (There was a reason for the trees, but I can’t recall what it was.)
I turned them down. We already had a gallery in town that was producing mostly theme exhibits and I saw no reason for the art museum to follow suit. That wasn’t what we were about–at least under my watch.
Themes are gimmicks. I’m not opposed to gimmicks, but let’s accept them for what they are.
Forced clever or cutesy themes rarely produce great art.
In fact, they often result in rotten art.
When you ask artists to make art for your theme, you’re doing them (and the rest of us) a disservice. They have to conform to your vision and we’re asked to look at the (usually) less-than-stellar results.
If you want to curate a themed exhibit, do your homework and find artists who already work in that theme. You'll have a much stronger show.
If theme exhibits are your thing, fine. But don’t use them as a crutch. And don’t let them interfere with the important work you were intended to do.