Stefan Sagmeister speaks to It's Nice That about The Beauty Project

22 May 2017


Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh have launched their latest initiative The Beauty Project, aiming to enlist international artists in a global exhibition celebrating beauty. It’s a concept which Stefan says has fallen out of public favour, yet has an indispensable social role to play, and the power to influence how we feel and behave.

It began in Mexico City, where artists Retna, Olivia Steele and AEC have already created large-scale public artworks, and Stefan plans to do the same in cities such as Tokyo, Detroit, Johannesburg and Sao Paolo. He’s already recruited artists including Ricardo Gonzalez and Jean Jullien to take part, and is looking to work with JR. Here, Stefan tells It’s Nice That more about the project.

Firstly could you introduce us to the Beauty Project and what it’s all about?

Throughout most of the 20th and 21st century, beauty has gotten a bad reputation. Many respectable designers claim not be interested in it, the contemporary art world has almost completely abandoned it and one can leaf through stacks of architecture books without seeing the term mentioned once.

So we are putting together a large, engaging exhibition demonstrating (through a wide variety of media) why this so utterly stupid and what we can do to reverse it. The goal of the exhibit is to prove to the visitor that beauty is no mere surface strategy but a central part of what it means to be human. We are working under the supervision of scientific advisers from the world of psychological aesthetics. We are examining why we are drawn to beauty psychologically, how we process it, and how it can help us.

We are using The Beauty Show as the opening salvo for The Beauty Project, a large-scale international NGO that implements beauty in the cities and countries the exhibition takes place.

We started a pilot project in Mexico City, bringing stakeholders from government, institutions, real estate and the art/design world together and have began implementing projects.


Olivia Steele

What format will The Beauty Project take?

Through murals, installations and interventions we will prove that beauty is no mere surface strategy but a central part of what it means to be human.

How does it compare to your previous projects, is it a new direction?

Our current exhibit, The Happy Show, has been visited by almost half a million people so far. Apart from the titles bearing a similarity, the shows are very different. For The Happy Show I had to make it very personal, as I’m not an expert on the happiness of everybody. Why should anybody care what a designer has to say about the subject. With beauty it is different, we can keep the scope wide as we actually know a thing or two about beauty.

Who are you hoping to work with, and in what capacity?

This will not be a show about stars but we will have wonderful collaborators for the show, from Canadian architect Philip Beesley to Japanese motion designer extraordinaire Nobumichi Asai.

Why is this project important now?

After 100 years of beauty being basically excluded as a goal in art, design and architecture, we are starved for it. Let’s keep all the other strategies, from disgust to shock to deliberate ugliness, and let’s bring beauty back in.

Stefan Sagmeister’s The Happy Film is available online from 22 June, and currently mid tour, with screenings in the US until 26 May and the UK from 10–14 June.



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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.

Jenny is currently on maternity leave.

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