Events Calendar

What's Your Sign? Retail Architecture and the History of Signage

For as long as goods have been bought and sold, shopkeepers and traders have found visually arresting ways to communicated their wares. However, signs are much more than advertisements. Sometimes, signs are the manifestations of desire. Alternately, signs can be textually directive, informing pedestrians and drivers of the wonders awaiting them within the shop. Occasionally, the product functions as its own signage, displayed alluringly for passersby.

 Unlike buildings, which are massive and exude a sense of permanence, signs are transitory. Though the structure may remain more or less the same when ownership transitions, signs let us know a shift has transpired - without signs, how would we discern that the greasy pizza place had transformed into an upscale vegan wrap emporium? Often employing design principles apparent in other contemporaneous print and visual media, signs tell us where we are in time as well as geography.

 Curated by Vero Rose Smith, this exhibition explores works in the University of Iowa Museum of Art permanent collections related to the evolution of signage. Additionally, a symposium on this topic  with a keynote address delivered by James Wines will be hosted at the University of Iowa on September 8th and 9th, 2017.

This exhibition  was made possible by the University of Iowa Museum of Art Legacies for Iowa: A Collections-Sharing Project, Supported by the Matthew Bucksbaum Family.

On view August 26, 2017, until November 26, 2017

FREE admission to the Figge Art Museum for UI students, faculty, and staff with UI identification cards and for UIMA Members with membership card.

Sunday, November 26, 2017 at 10:00am

Figge Art Museum 225 West Second Street, Davenport, IA

Event Type

Arts/Entertainment, Exhibit




University of Iowa Museum of Art

General Interest

Arts Iowa, Art, Museums


Contact Name

Elizabeth Wallace

Contact Email

Contact Phone Number



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