It’s no secret Vancouver suffers from a happiness problem. Something Austrian artist Stefan Sagmeister aims to address with his thought-provoking and engaging “The Happy Show”, which opens today at the Museum of Vancouver (running until Labour Day). Taking over the MOV’s galleries, stairwells, hallways, and washrooms, it is one of the largest exhibitions in the museum’s 120-year history.
As co-founder of the innovative Sagmeister & Walsh graphic design firm, Stefan has received countless professional plaudits – having won a pair of Grammy Awards, delivered a number of TED Talks, and worked with prestigious clients such as David Byrne, the Rolling Stones, HBO, the Guggenheim Museum, and Time Warner – but, on a personal level, has struggled with alcohol, drugs, weight gain, and depression.
After spending the better part of 10 years reconciling his own happiness with his professional success, Sagmeister conceived 15 (or so) maxims during a client-free sabbatical – a twelve-month break he takes every seven years to recharge creatively.
These nuggets of wisdom, such as “Assuming is stifling”, “Helping other people helps me”, and “Trying to look good limits my life”, are incredibly insightful in and of themselves, but the show’s genius lies in how they are uniquely presented: from an array of engaging infographics, to video projections, and interactive installations, including a stationary bike that powers a wall of neon, a giant inflatable monkey, and a series of gumball machines that displays visitors’ collective level of happiness.
Beyond the exhibit, the MOV hopes to engage visitors in a diverse array of public activities that extend “The Happy Show” into the community. Programs include a public symposium on ideas for happier communities, a series of Happy Hours that encourage Vancouverites to meet each other and inspire happiness through interaction, and a series of guerilla street interventions that invite social connection.