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An exhibition on happiness, luck, and fortune

Deutsches Hygiene-Museum and Siemens Arts Program

March 6, 2008 to January 4, 2009

The exhibition’s artistic director is Meschac Gaba. An artist from Benin, he has taken part in events such as documenta XI (2002), Venice Biennale (2003) and the São Paulo Biennale (2006). The exhibition was curated by Claudia Banz.

The search for happiness is as old as humanity itself, but our ideas of what happiness consists of, whether riches, consumption, freedom or love, are determined to some extent by the cultural, religious and economic conditions in which we live. These days, it is harder than ever to find common denominator for happiness. In our own affluent society, with its emphasis upon individual self-fulfilment, concepts of happiness have become similarly personalised. People’s very different needs and convictions are reflected in a wide range of competing paths to happiness.


All the same, the pursuit of happiness still poses the question: What kind of life do I – do we – want to live in this society? What part is played by subjective feelings of happiness, on one hand, and values such as solidarity and justice on the other?


So what do we mean, when we talk of happiness? The German language has one word ‚Glück‘, whereas others make a distinction between ‚happiness‘ and ‚luck‘. This exhibition presents very different and often contradictory forms of happiness in an associative composition of historical art and cultural exhibits, scientific objects and contemporary artworks. For all they may suggest that pursuit of happiness is an elemental part of human nature – there’s no compulsion to be happy!


That’s why the exhibition is not intended as yet another guide to achieving happiness. It is more of a test-bed, inviting visitors to take a new look at their own feelings and dreams. The motif of happiness appears in familiar and unfamiliar incarnations; it can be just as much an epitome of love, freedom or belief, as it can a synonym for intuition, immortality or Utopia. Moreover, the exhibition shows that happiness is inconceivable without its opposites; that misfortune, pain and loss are equally part of human existence.


View of the exhibition