With their fascinating exhibition project Beauty, Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh make a multimedia, highly sensory plea for us to take delight in beauty. Almost throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, beauty (has) had rather negative connotations in the design discourse. Sagmeister & Walsh counter this antipathy with convincing arguments and make it possible to experience beauty as a key and functional aspect of appealing design.
On view at the MAK from October 24 through March 31, 2019, this exhibition taps into all the senses and clearly demonstrates that beauty is more than merely a superficial strategy. Divided into six thematic areas, 'What Is Beauty?', 'The History of Beauty,' 'In the Eye of the Beholder,' 'Experience Beauty,' 'Transforming Beauty,' and 'The Beauty Archive,' some 70 groups of objects stimulate an aesthetic discourse on beauty as the paradigm of high-quality design.
Bearing projections, the spectacular smoke screen Fog Screen transforms the main entrance to the MAK on the Stubenring, immediately leading visitors to ponder the fundamental question: 'What is beauty?' Discussed by countless philosophers and scientists, the question of what makes something beautiful is answered with facts by Sagmeister & Walsh: beautiful things have a direct effect on our dopamine receptors and on our feelings, meaning that beautiful design can indeed be perceived as effective.
Sagmeister & Walsh define symmetry as a universal component of what we find beautiful. They corroborate this thesis with several installations: among other things, visitors can generate symmetrical structures with an interactive app and then order a tote bag with that structure printed on it via the app. A flock of birds projected onto a large screen whose density and speed can be controlled proves that there tends to be a preference for balanced patterns.
Beauty concludes with a "Beauty Archive" curated by Sagmeister & Walsh featuring the MAK's officially most beautiful exhibits: a best-of of objects that have been declared beautiful by the museum.
Photo: Sagmeister & Walsh, New York; MAK/Mona Heiß