Institute of Contemporary Art
Stefan Sagmeister: The Happy Show
2011 Exhibition Grant
The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) will exhibit the work of a graphic designer for the first time in its 48-year history: Austrian-born and New York-based Stefan Sagmeister, one of today’s most internationally influential designers. Sagmeister is perhaps best known for his album covers for popular musicians such as the Talking Heads and the Rolling Stones, though his projects also extend into an area that provocatively straddles art and design. The Happy Show will consist of a new exhibition centered around Sagmeister’s 10-year exploration of happiness, conceived as a series of interactive, audience-centered investigations on the subject. Scientists, psychologists, and even politicians have turned their attention to happiness over the past decade, bringing new attention to this aspect of human experience: We all pursue it, but who achieves it? Sagmeister has been closely following the scientific and pop-culture developments in this area. The exhibition is intended to explore the concept of happiness in both substantive and whimsical ways through a shifting range of activities designed to encourage repeat visits among audiences and reflect upon the transitory nature of happiness. For example, visitor surveys will be regularly distributed and their results tabulated and displayed within the installation. Sagmeister will also create a new commission for the ICA’s 92-foot ramp that will be visible from the street below. Segments of the artist’s ongoing video project, The Happy Film, will be on view in the gallery space, and Sagmeister will bring in a film crew to document the ICA exhibition, making it an integral part of an even larger process and enhancing its longer-term impact. In addition, a live Web cam will capture the show on an ongoing basis and will be available to view and discuss on the ICA Web site, allowing far flung audiences to experience this boundary-blurring project by an award-winning designer.
Photo: Stefan Sagmeister, Banana Wall, 2008. Bananas, 18' x 38'.