Rebecca Shaykin, Leon Levy Curatorial Assistant, asked Stefan Sagmeister about the exhibition:
Q. Six Things is named for six of your own keys to happiness. How did you arrive at them?
A. They all come from very different experiences. “If I don’t ask I won’t get” was
influenced by my friend Richard Saul Wurman, founder of TED, who doesn’t take
no for an answer. “Keeping a diary supports personal development” came from the
realization that my diary allows me to keep track of all the things I would like to
change about my life. “Be more flexible”: I find that when I get stuck in a groove
it’s beneficial to question my decisions. “Now is better” reflects my belief that it’s
better to be alive right now than in any previous century and that civilization actually works.
Q. These phrases could come across as a satire of self-help aphorisms, but your work
is sincere, isn’t it?
A. The sentences themselves are rather straightforward—and yes, you’re right, they are
meant neither cynically nor ironically. There’s too much cynicism and irony in my life as it is.
I do hope small glimpses of humor can be found in the work nevertheless.
Q. Does your work inspire others to think about happiness?
A. At The Happy Show
in Philadelphia visitors reported being transported to
a space where dealing with this subject became possible. One woman said she used the
show like a church and returned to it three times a week.
Q. Speaking of religion, can you say a bit about the gold text you’ve added to the walls?
Why do you suppose observant Jews score so high on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index?
A. My guess would be that these results come from an increased feeling of community, the
possibility of getting answers to the very big questions in life, and a sense that one is
part of something much bigger than oneself.
Q. Have you thought about converting?
A. No, for now I remain a medium-happy agnostic.