I recently typed in Google “Visiting Vienna for free” to see what can you do in the Austrian capitol for free. It was Sunday and it turned out that on Tuesday one of the Viennese museums opens for free between 6 and 10 pm. I haven’t actually checked at but planned to spend the evening visiting it.

The crowd in front of MAK (that is The Museum of Applied Arts) was not surprising – I already queued to MoMA and other New Yorker museums and galleries at the hours of a free antrance. But it wasn’t actually bad at all – two minutes and I was in!

And what was in was much much more that I could have ever expected!

It turned out that I was participating at the opening night of the exhibition called “The Happy Show” by a New Yorker artist of an Austrian origin – Stefan Sagmeister (about whom – as a proper alumna of cultural studies, sighhh – I have never heard before (sometimes I really feel an ignorant, really!)). So I’ve done the research only after being back home.

Few words about the artist (if you also happen not to be familiar with his art):

Sagmeister was born in 1962, studied graphic design in Vienna, but after receiving a Fulbrigh scholarschip to New York, has never came back to work in Vienna. He happened to live and work in Hong-Kong and Italy, but it is New York that turned into his art base.

He is an artist and a typograher, co-founder of a design firm called Sagmeister & Walsh Inc. He designed the album covers for Lou Reeda, The Rolling Stones, Davida Byrne’a, Aerosmith and Pata Metheny’ego. Wikipedia says that: “Several years ago he decided to dedicate 25% of his work to the art world, things like books and publications for galleries, another 25% to the scientific community, 25% to social causes, and the remaining quarter has stayed dedicated to the music industry.” Quite cool, huh?

But let’s get down to business!

This is how the entrance to the exhibition looked like:

Stefan Sagmeister "The Happy Show"
Stefan Sagmeister “The Happy Show”

And it was only better later on:

Sagmeister and his exhibition explore the topic which has been of my interest for quite a long time already (maybe even a couple of years?): “happiness”. The artist talks about it, shows the social contexts of the happiness, indicates statistics, hits the easy and commom associations.

I don’t know if it’s possible to define happiness. I have not managed to do that so far, but actually I don’t know if that’s really needed. But the few sentences from the exhibition I’m quoting below, are just simply very close to me and make me think a lot.

If you can – visit the exhibition (on Tuesdays even for free!). The exhibition is open until 28th of March 2016, so you still have a while to go.


“This is as true for all the little crap fights in my life, as it is for all the big conflicts in the world. I – and I suspect everybody else, too – was born a gian egoist. I have had all these experiences forming my reality, and very much by default, I am at the absolute center of every single experience I’ve ever had. These experiences are completely immediate while everybody else’s feelings have to be communicated to me. So of course it is difficult to tryly understand somebody else’s reality formed by different experiences.”


“Like everybody else I have six basic emotions: sadness, surprise, anger, joy, fear, and disgust. Only one of them is positive, one is neutral, and all the others are negative.

Which is why I’m more attracted to negative than to positive news. And so is everybody else, which explains why every attempt to publish a positive newspaper has failed within weeks.

Even if I read blogs depicting my own work, one negative comment seems to cancel out two dozens positive ones. I’ve spent more time contemplaiting a single negative review of our latest work than the thirty positive ones.”


“Starting a charity is surprisingly easy. Running a charity is surprisingly hard. Once the initial euphoria evaporates, projects tend to turn into repetitive endeavors that are difficult to stay excited about.”


“This maxim is my friend Richard Saul Wurman’s life motto; he built his entire carrer around it. A somewhat shameless character, he manages to never take a no seriously or personally. When he ran the TED conference and invited sometimes reluctant speakers, he’d ask them again and again – sometimes for 10 consecutive years – until they’d finally give in and show up. He wanted me to design 60 posters for free, a giant amount of work that I had to decline. A week later he’d call again, asking me to take the phone into a room where I’d be alone: “Close your eyes. Picture me naked. I know I’m fat and it’s not a pretty sight. Now imaine me going down on my knees. Putting my head on the floor in front of you, both hands flat on the ground. I beg you: Please, Stefan, design these posters for me.” I did not know how to say no.”


“I’ve been keeping a diary for many, many years. I find it helpful to reread certain passages to see what my thinking was, and most importantly, to discover things I feel need changing. When I have repeatedly described a circumstance or character trait of mine that I dislike, I eventually wind up doing something about it.”

Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, an exhibition of Stefan Sagmeister “The Happy Show” (28.10.2015-28.03.2016)

Day 43 (27 October 2015)

Vienna, 27 October 2015