Founded in 1963, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania has developed an international reputation as a preeminent venue for contemporary art and culture. ICA is widely known for exhibiting artists at critical points in their careers. It organized the first museum shows on the work of Andy Warhol, Laurie Anderson, Robert Indiana, and Agnes Martin. A non-collecting museum, ICA is also one of the only kunsthalles in America.
For the first time in its 48-year history, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) presented the work of a graphic designer: Austrian-born and New York-based Stefan Sagmeister. Best known for his album covers for popular musicians such as the Talking Heads and the Rolling Stones, Sagmeister's projects provocatively straddle the domains of art and design. The Happy Show focused on Sagmeister's 10-year exploration of happiness and was conceived as a series of interactive, audience-centered investigations—both substantive and whimsical—on the subject. For example, the results of visitor surveys were tabulated and displayed within the installation. Sagmeister also created a new commission for the ICA's 92-foot ramp that was visible from the street below. Segments of the artist's ongoing video project, The Happy Film, were on view in the gallery space, and Sagmeister brought in a film crew to document the ICA exhibition, making it an integral part of an even larger process and enhancing its longer-term impact. In addition, a live webcam captured the show on an ongoing basis and was available to view and discuss on the ICA website.