The Daily Heller: Sagmeister’s Long-Term Data Art

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Stefan Sagmeister always aims to surprise us and himself. In 2020 he opened an exhibition, Beautiful Numbers, soon to be adapted into a book this Fall. In 2022 he launched a line of fashion loosely connected to this exhibition. Each project is a new way to address essential data associated with the preservation and destruction of our planet . Now he has taken the alchemy of that first show and expanded its optimistic breadth to include even more consequential, “long term” data. His recent work will be on view in Now is Better at the Patrick Parrish Gallery (50 Lispenard St., New York City) from May 5–June 16. For details from the artist — and to learn whether or not now is better — read our recent exchange below.

Money to Learn Public Education Spending in developed nations, as percentage of GDP, 1880 – 2000.

What is the theme of your latest gallery exhibit?
The exhibit is called Now is Better. It is an exhibition about long-term thinking. 

It contains visualizations of data that span 50, 100 and 200 years. Short-term media like Twitter and hourly news create an impression of a world out of control, with democracy in peril, ubiquitous conflicts, and an overall outlook of doom. But if we look at developments concerning the world from a long-term perspective, almost any aspect concerning humanity seems to get better.

Doing/Dumping The mount of greenhouse gases produced by activities: 31% Making things Cement/steel/plastic, 25% Plugging in Electricity, 19% Growing things Animals/plants, 16% Getting around cars/planes/ships, 7% Keeping warm and cool Heating/cooling.

Is this new work that we’ll be seeing?
Yes! We explored the long-term thinking theme already in an exhibit called Beautiful Numbers (which is currently still being shown in museums in Mexico), but this is all-new work. 

With this show, have you at least temporarily removed yourself from clients other than yourself?
We are still doing some client work, but only if our theme of long-term thinking fits with their goal. We have completed a number of jobs like murals, a bike path or a tunnel connecting hospitals.

We do not accept work that is promotional or advertising related. I myself feel I have completed my share of that work and wanted to move on. 

American Dirt CO2 emissions per person, in the USA, 1880 – 2020.

Do you intend to continue with this info-art approach?
Yes, very much so. Part of the concept of this work is that the pieces wind up hanging in someone’s living room, reminding them that what they just saw on Twitter does not mean the end of the world. 

As long as we continue to be able to sell this work, I am very happy to create new pieces. I am very much in love with the process. 

Richer and Poorer Share of the global population living in poverty, real and imagined..