Sagmeister & Walsh: Beauty
15.12.2019 – 26.4.2020
What is beauty and why do we feel so attracted to it? Ever since the debates on aesthetics in antiquity, philosophers, scientists, psychologists, and of course artists and designers have been arguing about the nature of beauty, its effect on human perception, and the resulting behaviour. The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) is dedicating itself to this discourse in the exhibition project Beauty by Stefan Sagmeister, the graphic design superstar from New York. Together with Jessica Walsh, Sagmeister makes a very personal and visually compelling case here for the appreciation and enjoyment of beauty. Over the course of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, beauty has increasingly fallen out of favour in the design discourse. Sagmeister and Walsh now counter this distrust of the beautiful with empirically founded arguments along with subjective observations, allowing us to experience beauty as a fundamental functional aspect of appealing design. After the resounding success of his “Happy Show”, Stefan Sagmeister now takes visitors along on a sensually pleasurable expedition into his own world of beauty, treating them to spectacular interactive and multimedia installations. A mix of installations produced especially for the show together with examples of product design, urban planning, architecture, and graphic design invites the audience to see, smell, and touch. Backed by findings in psychological aesthetics, Sagmeister & Walsh argue that beauty is more than just a superficial strategy: it has a pervasive influence on our everyday lives, stimulating our senses and ultimately making the world a better place.
Around 70 groups of exhibits divided into six themes – “What is Beauty?”, “The History of Beauty”, “In the Eye of the Beholder”, “Experiencing Beauty”, and “Transforming Beauty” – spark an aesthetic discourse on beauty as a paradigm for high-quality design. The exhibition concludes with a “Beauty Archive” curated by Sagmeister & Walsh that features selected objects from MKG’s collection of over 500,000 works that they consider particularly beautiful. This best-of comprises over 60 objects spanning all disciplines and various cultures and eras, from ancient sculptures and Renaissance treasures from cabinets of curiosities to works on paper by Albrecht Dürer, fashion by Christian Dior, and toys by Lyonel Feininger to photographs, furniture, and a high-tech racing bike.
The exhibition is accompanied by the publication “Sagmeister & Walsh: Beauty” by Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh, English, 284 pages with 377 colour illustrations, published by Phaidon, London 2018, € 34,95 Euro, German edition published by Verlag Hermann Schmidt, Mainz 2018, 39,80 Euro, both are available at the Walther König book shop in MKG.
“Sagmeister & Walsh: Beauty” is an exhibition presented by MAK, Vienna, and the Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main. The exhibition was curated by Kathrin Pokorny-Nagel (MAK, Vienna) and will be mounted at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg by Dennis Conrad and Simon Klingler. The exhibition has been made possible by funds from the Ausstellungsfonds der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg, the Hubertus Wald Stiftung and with the kind support of the Justus Brinckmann Gesellschaft.
Image 1: Stefan Sagmeister (*1962) & Jessica Walsh (*1986): Color Room, 2018/19, in cooperation with Backhausen, © Aslan Kudrnofsky/MAK Wien
Image 2: Exhibition view, photo: Henning Rogge
Image 3: Exhibition view: Philip Beesley/Living Architecture Systems Group: Nebula Prototype: Liminal Architecture, © PBA_Toronto_Liminal Architectur_by Philip_Beesley, photo: Henning Rogge
Image 4: Exhibition view: Beauty Archive, photo: MKG
Image 5: Stefan Sagmeister (*1962) & Jessica Walsh (*1986): Portrait, 2013, © John Madere