Expressions of Happiness in the Artworld

Paola Pivi "we are the baby gang." artwork

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Paola Pivi "we are the baby gang." artwork

Expressions of Happiness in the Artworld

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Experienced art advisor Sab Cosmic has been immersed in the artworld for the last 30 years. She began her career in London, then New York,  Mexico, and Paris. Now based in Switzerland, she recalls what happiness in the arts means to her.

Tell us about what art means to you, and why it brings joy.

Art induces happiness. It has a powerful impact on our lives. For me, the happiest art is installation art mainly because it involves us directly. 

As an art advisor in the art world, I feel I have been very fortunate to encounter so many free minds, such great work, so much amazing talent.  

Which artist is important to you?

I first discovered the works of Dan Flavin and his fluorescent lights in Bridgehampton in the summer of 1995. The artist was born in Jamaica, New York in 1933. He studied for the priesthood for a brief period of time before enlisting in the AirForce. 

dan flavin fluorescent lights
Untitled (to Jan and Ron Greenberg), 1972–73, by Dan Flavin
Photo: Bill Jacobson Studio, New York

In 1961, he presented his first solo show in a gallery in New York. By 1968, he had developed his sculptures into room-sized environments of light.  Colour, light and space were his mediums. Essential. 

dan flavin fluorescent lights
Untitled (for Prudence and her new baby) 1992, by Dan Flavin

Why does that particular artist make you happy?

By the 1990s, Dan had filled the Guggenheim Museum with multicoloured light, taking full advantage of the architecture. His bright, neon installations in Bridgehampton made me feel like I was swimming into an array of lights. The colourful textures surrounding me were very powerful; shifts of colours that played a positive impact on my mood and my body. I could touch light; I was so happy!

Who else has been important to you?

In 1997, I discovered the medium of video art with leading videoist Bill Viola at Whitney Museum. Born in 1951 in New York, the artist creates environments that envelop the viewer in image and sound. The movement of his videos is key to our perception. Since the early ’70s, he has used video to explore universal experiences such as birth, life, death. I will always remember the magical moment when I looked at his videos and sensed the movement of life with his slow-motion images together with the incredible sound of water.  

bill viola ascension 2000 artwork
Ascension, 2000 color video projection; stereo sound, by Bill Viola

Which art/artists embody joy for you? 

In 2017, I experienced art installations by renowned Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama, at David Zwirner gallery in New York. Born in Japan in 1929, the artist became famous for her happenings in 1960’s New York. Since 1965, she has created illusions of infinite space within a room, where you are transported to a multisensory experience. Her artworks are synonymous with her playful and intense experiences of endless reflections. 

yayoi kasuma infinity mirrored room
Infinity Mirrored Room – Let’s Survive Forever, 2017 by Yayoi Kusama

In 2019, I saw a playful installation by Italian artist Paola Pivi at the Perrotin gallery in New York. Born in Italy in 1971, the artist displays 70 unbearably sweet baby bears.  Living in Anchorage, Alaska Paola uses bears to emphasize our own human characteristics: there are bears practising yoga, hanging from trapezes and engaging with each other, hugging, playing and showing emotion. The colourful, mini-sized bears installation is definitely a happy moment.

Paola Pivi "we are the baby gang." artwork
Installation view of “We are the baby gang” by Paola Pivi
Photo © Attilio Maranzano, courtesy of Perrotin Gallery, New York.

Street art or museums?

During these past few years, I have, of course, experienced great inner peace and happiness when wandering around museums, looking at beautiful masterpieces. But for me, nothing is more vibrant than street art. I discovered a magical place Miami: Wynwood Walls, a unique outdoor destination featuring huge, colourful street murals by artists from around the globe.

Wynwood Walls, Miami. Artists: Eli Sudbrack and Christophe Hamaide-Pierson.
Wynwood Walls, Miami. Artists: Eli Sudbrack and Christophe Hamaide-Pierson

Electrifying!  A real open-air museum with very talented artists coming from all over the world. Pure happiness watching walls transformed into vivid surfaces. Freedom of speech and freedom of movement.  

There was one in particular: JR, born in 1983, who calls himself a photograffeur. He flyposts large, black and white photographic images in public locations, and creates interactive moments with the local people, sharing his passion to make you part of it. JR transforms places — whether in New York, the Louvre in Paris, or within a prison in California, where he has his latest project.

JR
Art activation within the walls of California Correctional Institution: Tehachapi, by JR
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