You know, I’m an old, jaded fellow, but this was like a dip into the fountain of youth; thought-provoking, entertaining, and interactive, the Beauty exhibition at the MAK museum is a wonderful way to let a little more joy into your life.
- Fantastic exhibition on the positive role beauty can play in design and architecture
- Numerous multimedia displays and buttons/screens you can press (yay!)
- Runs Oct 24, 2018 to Mar 31, 2019
- Accessible with a standard ticket for the MAK (€12 for adults) or free with the Vienna Pass sightseeing ticket
- See also: Events in Vienna
What’s it all about?
The basic premise is that we’ve allowed function to trump form. That we ignore beauty in the cause of efficiency and economy – an approach which, it seems, is actually a relatively modern phenomenon.
In their exhibition, Stefan Sagmeister and Jessica Walsh put the case for (re)introducing beauty into our lives. The implication being that beauty benefits our well being and need not mean any sacrifice of efficiency or economy (it can even enhance both). For example, as one video explains, art in hospitals shortens patient recovery times and reduces the use of painkillers.
Various multimedia, interactive and physical displays scattered throughout the MAK museum illustrate these points via the medium of touch, smell, sound, and sight. I was very taken with it all.
For once, it was an exhibition that genuinely made me think and even change my attitudes to the shape and form of the world around me. Though maybe I’ve spent too much time researching the likes of Otto Wagner and Alfred Loos, who ranked beauty a little lower on the list of requirements for architecture and items.
So what are the highlights?
It all begins at the entrance, where you walk through images projected onto fog. That’s a wow effect before you even have your entrance ticket.
Then the museum atrium already starts to poke at your prejudices and beliefs, explaining how beautiful objects do share some common characteristics and offering one particular exhibit I could happily have stared at for hours: a huge video simulation of a flock of birds you can influence through a console. The results are much like the famous murmuration of starlings:
Elsewhere, one exhibit traces the development of the design of the drinking glass, all the way to the crowning glory of…a plastic cup. Another illustrates the terrifying similarity of international airports. Another highlights the difference between the bland uniformity of Munich’s subway stations and the memorable individuality of Moscow’s.
Then there’s the sensory room, where you’re sealed off with the colours of sunset, the smell of lemons and the sound of Malaysian tree frogs. Which wasn’t actually as beautiful an experience as you might think. Or the soundproof room where you immerse yourself in the beauty of music. I could go on…it’s a joyous mix of insights, ideas and items that mean you’ll never look at a spoon or a building or a cityscape the same way again. Probably.
Oh, the displays are largely in German, but there is a free guidebook you can borrow to go around with, which rather nicely explains everything in English.
Dates and tickets
The exhibition runs from Wednesday, October 24th 2018 to Sunday, March 31st 2019. It’s integrated within the permanent MAK display areas, so accessible with a normal entrance ticket or using the Vienna Pass. The MAK opens daily from 10 am to 6 pm (10 pm on Tuesdays), but is usually closed on Mondays.
How to get to the exhibition
The MAK is opposite a subway station (“Stubentor” on the U3 line) and tram stop (“Stubentor” on the 2 line). See the main MAK article for more details.
Address: Stubenring 5, 1010 Vienna | Website