This July Wellcome Collection will launch On Happiness, a season of free events, activities and two exhibitions – Joy and Tranquillity – which will bring together voices from across the cultural, scientific and spiritual fields to reflect on the elusive subject of happiness.

In this period of great instability, escalating infectious diseases, ecological concerns and rising levels of anxiety and depression worldwide, Wellcome Collection will examine the ways in which people find resilience, hope and even joy at times of duress. In response to seismic political and social upheavals On Happiness will ask; how might we rebuild happiness for our current times?

At the heart of the On Happiness season will be the joint exhibitions Joy and Tranquillity which will consider different routes to experiencing these positive feelings. The exhibitions will consider ideas from different schools of thought including neuroscience, religion and psychotherapy offering a range of perspectives on the connections between emotions and health.

Newly commissioned works and multi-sensory installations by contemporary artists including Jasleen Kaur, Chrystel Lebas, Harold Offeh, Amalia Pica, Stefanie Posavec and David Shrigley will be on display alongside historic objects dating back to the 15th century from Wellcome’s collection.

15 July 2021 – 9 January 2022
Gallery 1
On Happiness
Through immersive exhibits Tranquillity will present gentler emotional states such as contentment, serenity, peace and balance, and will investigate themes including reverie, retreat and the calming effects of time spent in nature. Alongside contemporary artworks and historic artefacts, many drawn from Wellcome’s own collections, will be two newly commissioned installations by artists Jasleen Kaur and Chrystel Lebas which ask us to think carefully about our own wellbeing and our interdependence on others and the natural environment.
Image: The freedom of sacred love. Hand-coloured etching. Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

15 July 2021 – 27 February 2022
Gallery 2
On HappinessThe Joy exhibition will explore heightened emotional states such as ecstasy, euphoria and pleasure through experiences including laughter, dancing and protest. Many of the works in the exhibition will explore joyful experiences as a way of releasing tension and helping to mitigate the impact of stress in the body. Joy will include new artworks by Harold Offeh, Amalia Pica and David Shrigley which explore themes of resilience, humour and hope. The commissions will be shown alongside contemporary artworks and historic objects that focus on different paths to joy and its interconnection to sorrow.
Image: University of Maryland, November 1971, Steve Budman © Steve Budman

Digital Exhibition Guide
Joy and Tranquillity will be accompanied by a digital guide that brings together different perspectives from the fields of medicine, science, religion, history, and poetry that expand on the themes addressed in the two exhibitions. The guide also includes audio-description of selected works. It will be available in the building as well as online for visitors unable to visit our venue.

Joy and Tranquillity are co-curated by Laurie Britton Newell and George Vasey as part of Wellcome Collection’s On Happiness season.


Updating Happiness, Stefanie Posavec
15 July 2021 – 27 February 2022
Wellcome Collection and
On HappinessUpdating Happiness is an emotional check-in device by poetic data designer Stefanie Posavec, which playfully draws attention to small daily pleasures that make us feel good. Members of the public are invited to participate in the new digital artwork by completing a short questionnaire and in return will receive a uniquely designed quote based on their answers, which will be added to a growing archive of reflections on happiness.
Image: Updating Happiness, 2021, Stefanie Posavec, Commissioned by Wellcome Collection.(CC-BY-NC)

Regarding Forests, Chrystel Lebas
26 August – 2 December 2021
Barts Heritage, the North Wing, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, EC1A 7BE
On HappinessIn connection with the Tranquillity exhibition at Wellcome Collection, artist Chrystel Lebas presents two new works from the Regarding Forests series for a special installation within the Grade I listed North Wing at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London. Lebas’ large-scale photographs of ancient forests will be accompanied by the sounds and scents of these landscapes. Displayed in a space adjacent to the grand staircase, with monumental paintings by William Hogarth, the installation will offer a peaceful and restorative encounter for staff, patients and the public amid a busy working hospital. The presentation at Barts Heritage is an opportunity to explore the positive impact culture and heritage can have on people’s lives, reaching people in a place and a moment where they might need it most.

The installation will be open to the public on selected days and during Open House Festival 4-12 September 2021, It will later tour to venues across the UK during 2022. 
Image: Regarding Forests, Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine #9, Yakushima, 2017, Chrystel Lebas. Wellcome Collection. (CC-BY-NC)


Curating Happiness
Friday 16 July 2021, 13:00-14:00
Online event, booking required (free)
On Happiness
Curators Laurie Britton Newell and George Vasey discuss the making and remaking of the exhibitions Joy and Tranquillity. In this honest and illuminating online event, the curators reflect on what they have learned about the elusive subject of happiness as part of this journey.

Happiness, A Mystery, Sophie Hannah
Thursday 29 July 2021, 18:00-19:00
Online event, booking required (free)
On HappinessJoin renowned crime fiction writer Sophie Hannah as she tackles the subject of happiness as a puzzle to be solved, detective style. Happiness is one of life’s greatest mysteries. But what even is happiness? Why does it mean so many different things to different people? And how can we actually be happier? Drawing on decades of experience in crime writing, self-help and intensely curious observation of other people, Sophie Hannah sets out to solve the mystery. Will we get close to solving this challenging mystery once and for all? Find out in this live and interactive online event.
Sophie Hannah ‘Happiness, A Mystery’ published by Wellcome Collection, £12.99 B-format Hardback 

Dance the Pain Away, Harold Offeh
October 2021

Online event, booking required (free)
On HappinessThroughout October, join the dots between movement and dance, personal and social trauma and queer histories in this programme curated by artist Harold Offeh. Hear how queer communities of colour have reclaimed collective joy as an antidote to trauma. Take part in a workshop, join a conversation or dance in your bedroom to a live streamed mix.
Image: Joy Inside Our Tears, 2021, Harold Offeh. Production stills. Performers: Veronica Cordova de la Rosa, Samara Mayanja, Harold Offeh and Ebun Sodipo. Commissioned by Wellcome Collection. (CC-BY-NC)

On Happiness Podcast
Launching August
Emotion affects our lives and culture in unexpected ways. In this five-part podcast series we ask artists, scientists, activists and health workers what emotions like hope, joy and tranquillity mean to them and others. Launching in August 2021, episodes will be released on a monthly basis via iTunes, Spotify or your favourite podcast platform.

Eloquent Rage, a film by Bhebhe&Davies 
January – February 2022
Film, booking required (free)
On HappinessBhebhe&Davies present the first work in their Eloquent Rage series. This short film will complicate how we understand our feelings, exploring how our emotions might be perceived, how this feels and how they are performed. Centred in a bodily performance by artist Nandi Bhebhe, her movement will score its way through the multifaceted physicalities of rage. Diving through a blistering acceptance of defensive demons, to a sweat-drenched euphoric rave and sinking deep into the amplified silence of a voice crack. This work explores how rage is held on our surfaces and vibrates deep in our core.

Direction and sound designed by Bhebhe & Davies with vocal contributions from Georgia Frost and Holland Andrews. 
Image: Bhebhe&Davies


Joy is a Protest
Autumn 2021
On Happiness
Wellcome Collection’s Youth Programme is collaborating with artists and facilitators to explore happiness and joy in the form of a protest. Exploring questions of what happiness means and who has access to it, the workshops will culminate in the production of a collaborative zine print and film which will be displayed at Wellcome Collection as part of the On Happiness season.
Image: by Timi Akindele-Ajani


Feeling through nature
16 – 20 August 2021
A collection of five essays, guest edited for Wellcome Collection Stories by award-winning nature writer and founder of The Willowherb Review, Jessica J. Lee. Featuring contributions from Jennifer Neal, Nina Mingya Powles, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Michael Malay and Jessica herself, Feeling through nature will explore the connection between the natural world and wellbeing. The essays range over subjects including gardening, homesickness, hiking, assault, healing, wildness, domestication, overlooked creatures and neglected landscapes. Nature here proves to be anything but a straightforward solace: instead, it is a place of mixed emotions, painful recovery, reclaimed knowledge and unexpected beauty.

The Happiness Quest
1 July – 5 August 2021
In this six-part serial, Wellcome Collection’s Kate Wilkinson looks at the experience of happiness through time, from youth to old age. She talks to people at all stages of their lives and asks how such things as fantasy stories, mind-altering drugs and lifestyle minimalism can reveal different paths to joy and contentment.

Additional events will be announced throughout the On Happiness season. Sign-up to the Wellcome Collection newsletter and check the website for the latest programme information.

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