15 December 2019 until 26 April 2020
Sagmeister & Walsh

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) was 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 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 took 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 invited 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” – sparked an aesthetic discourse on beauty as a paradigm for high-quality design. The exhibition concluded with a “Beauty Archive” curated by Sagmeister & Walsh that featured selected objects from MKG’s collection of over 500,000 works that they consider particularly beautiful. This best-of comprised some 100 items from all genres and different cultures and periods, ranging from antique sculptures to a high-tech racing bike.

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 had been mounted at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg by Dennis Conrad and Simon Klingler. The Hamburg venue was made possible by funds from the Exhibition Fund of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, the Hubertus Wald Foundation and the Justus Brinckmann Gesellschaft.

Photo: Sagmeister & Walsh, Color Room, 2018/19, in cooperation with Backhausen MAK Wien DESIGN LABOR, © Aslan Kudrnofsky/MAK Vienna