This fascinating exhibition realized by the acclaimed designers Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh immerses visitors in a multimedia, highly sensory plea for us to reconsider why beauty matters and how it can impact our lives. Almost throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, beauty got a bad reputation and (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. In their eyes, “Beauty is Function” and they believe it should be treated as part of the function in the design process. Spreading across the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Foundation, the exhibition taps into all the senses and clearly demonstrates that beauty is more than a superficial strategy of appeal: it can make the world better.
Examples from product design, city planning, architecture, and graphic design encourage visitors to see, smell, and feel. Supported by findings from the field of psychological aesthetics and its impact on our behavior and feelings, Sagmeister & Walsh offer evidence that beautifully designed works stimulate human perception and are hence more effective.
The negation of beauty is also addressed comprehensively; in particular under the influence of the modern movement, a time when designers and architects would create with only function in mind, considering beauty as superfluous and leading to reject it.
The Beauty show touches on different topics with some 70 object groups stimulating an aesthetic discourse on beauty as the paradigm of high-quality design.
Upon entering, visitors are immediately led to ponder the fundamental question: “What is beauty?” Discussed by countless philosophers and scientists, the question of what makes something beautiful is answered by Sagmeister & Walsh with facts and references to science, history, and philosophy: beautiful things have a direct effect on our dopamine receptors and on our feelings, meaning that beautiful design can indeed be perceived as effective.
Among the other themes covered i “The History of Beauty”: since the prehistoric period beauty has always been a defining factor in the choice of mate, reproduction, and evolution.
Sagmeister & Walsh define symmetry as a universal component of what we find beautiful. Through interactive experiences and surveys; we are led to observe that aesthetic preferences are less subjective than generally believed, which raises discussions about the “subjectivity of beauty.”
Sight and color perception, smells, tactility, sounds: all these senses matter in “Experiencing Beauty”; experiences visitors are invited to part in.
Sagmeister & Walsh: Beauty is part of the cycle of interactive exhibitions of the Fondation d’entreprise Martell (Martell Corporate Foundation), which since 2016 offers its visitors immersion experiences in various fields of contemporary art. After landscape, architecture, light and design, the Beauty show puts at the heart of the place and in the hearts of the public the desire to find again beauty in our lives, individually and collectively.
Fondation d’entreprise Martell
16 avenue Paul Firino Martell
16100 Cognac, France