April 22, 2013 - The Jewish Museum - Six Things: Sagmeister & Walsh
April 22, 2013

Six Things: Sagmeister & Walsh

Six Things: Sagmeister & Walsh. Exhibition view, The Jewish Museum. Photo: David Heald/The Jewish Museum, © 2013.

Six Things: Sagmeister & Walsh
March 15–August 4, 2013

The Jewish Museum
1109 Fifth Ave at 92nd St
New York, NY 10128
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Sunday 11am–5:45pm,
Wednesday closed (shops/café open 11am–3pm),
Thursday 11am–8pm (pay what you wish after 5pm),
Saturday 11am–5:45pm (free)

T 212 423 3200
F 212 423 3232


The designers Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh are known for their experimental typography and striking visual imagery. Their work is by turns playful and unsettling, humanist and existential, and often expands the definition of design, embracing film, sculpture, poetry, and performance. Six Things marks the first exhibition of their newly founded design firm, Sagmeister & Walsh.

Before this partnership, Sagmeister was already taking an unusual approach to design. In an iconic 1999 poster for the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), he cut type into the skin of his torso like a tattoo. At the contemporary art gallery Deitch Projects in 2008 he stacked 10,000 bananas against a wall. Unripe green bananas among the yellow ones spelled out the sentence, “Self-confidence produces fine results.” The legibility of the text fluctuated as the fruit ripened over the course of the exhibition.

Over the last ten years, Sagmeister has been delving into the nature of happiness. “The center of this exploration,” he explains, “is the search for an answer to the question: is it possible to train my mind in the same way I can train my body?” Inspired by the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, whose research connects spiritual wisdom with modern science, Sagmeister developed an intensive regimen of meditation, cognitive therapy, and mood-altering drugs as an experiment in self-discovery.

From this emerged a forthcoming documentary titled The Happy Film, and, from that, The Happy Show, a traveling exhibition and its accompanying publications, organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia. Six Things is a continuation of this project on happiness, in which Jessica Walsh has been an integral partner.

In five compelling short videos and a sound-activated sculpture, Sagmeister & Walsh examines six things culled from Sagmeister’s diary that he believes have increased his personal happiness:

If I Don’t Ask I Won’t Get 
Keeping a Diary Supports Personal Development 
Be More Flexible 
It Is Pretty Much Impossible to Please Everybody 
Now Is Better 
Feel Others Feel

Sugar cubes, bubbles, and water balloons are just some of the materials used to spell out the phrases. The ambiguous connections between the six epigrams and the objects of which they are composed are left for visitors to decipher, a provocative game based in the pleasure of looking.

In addition, intrigued by a 2010–11 nationwide survey in which Jews reported the highest levels of well-being of all religious groups, the studio has placed a text in the gallery that connects this scientific data to the personal exploration of happiness.

Public programs:
Thursday, May 2, 6:30pm
Writers and Artists Respond: Stefan Sagmeister
Stefan Sagmeister speaks about his recent projects, including the exhibition Six Things: Sagmeister & Walsh.  A limited number of stools are provided on a first come-first served basis. Tickets: free with pay-what-you-wish admission.

Thursday, May 2, 8pm
The Wind Up: Happiness Therapy with Stefan Sagmeister
Stefan Sagmeister kicks off the evening with a preview of The Happy Film, his feature documentary now in post-production. The evening will include a Juan MacLean DJ Set, open beer & wine bar, screen printing, tattoos, free neck and back massages, and sweets provided by Economy Candy. Come early to enter the raffle for an item signed by the Sagmeister & Walsh team.  Special tours of Six Things: Sagmeister & Walsh, and also of As it were … So to speak: A Museum Collection in Dialogue with Barbara Bloom take place at 9pm and 10pm. Beer courtesy of Shmaltz Brewing Company. Click to purchase tickets.

The designers
Stefan Sagmeister (b. Bregenz, Austria; 1962), established the design firm Sagmeister Inc., now Sagmeister & Walsh, in New York in 1993. He has created signature album covers for Lou Reed, Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones, OK Go, and others, and executed indelible ad campaigns for major companies such as HBO and Levi’s. He is the recipient of numerous design awards, including two Grammy awards for his packaging designs (2005, 2010). Jessica Walsh (b. New York, 1986), a multidisciplinary designer, previously worked at Pentagram Design and Print magazine. The New York Times, AIGA, and EDP are among her clients. She was named Computer Art‘s Top Rising Star in Design (2009), an Art Director’s Club Young Gun (2010), and Print‘s New Visual Artist (2011). Sagmeister & Walsh has been engaged to create a new graphic identity for The Jewish Museum.

Six Things: Sagmeister & Walsh is organized by Rebecca Shaykin, Leon Levy Curatorial Assistant.

The exhibition is made possible by the Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Charitable Trust. Additional support is provided by StampStampede.org.

The Wind Up: Happiness Therapy with Stefan Sagmeister is funded by a generous endowment from the Saul and Harriet M. Rothkopf Family Foundation.

The Jewish Museum presents Six Things: Sagmeister & Walsh
The Jewish Museum
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