1. Recently, in a basement in Brooklyn NYC:
For a short time, the Smile Face Museum was on display at an art space called 228 ½ Boerum Street. Thousands of round yellow faces on all manner of memorabilia smiled back at me from floor to ceiling, in every nook and cranny of the basement space. Curators Mark Sachs and Adrienne Garbini have all the answers to your smiley questions…
3. Mark Sachs is the Founder of the Smile Face Museum
How and when did this start?
Mark: I started collecting smile faces in about 1992. When I told friends that I was collecting, I started to get many as gifts from them.
Is this the world’s largest collection of smiley faces?
Adrienne: I believe that the world’s largest smile face collection is in Halifax, Canada at Debbie Power’s Happy Face Museum. Debbie has been collecting since the early 80s.
I haven’t heard of other smile face museums besides ours and Debbie’s, but there are several other institutional and private collections that I am aware of. For our Brooklyn exhibitions, we borrowed the Smiley Face Collection from The Sarah G. Jacobson Papers at Fales Library at New York University. We also exhibited the collection of Rita Mageary of Lynn, Massachusetts. Her collection was donated to the Smile Face Museum in 2010. Its spectacular - Rita has been collecting since the early 70’s. She is turning 89 years old this week, and is one of the longest running smile collectors I am aware of.
What do you think is the cultural significance of the smily face? Is it actually a positive force in culture? How does it make you personally feel?
Mark: I believe it is a lot about emotion and happiness. At the museum openings over the past month, when people were looking at the objects, I saw lots and lots of smiles. I do think it is a positive force. One of the things I’m impressed with is that they are everywhere, … they are painted on a variety of mediums.
Adrienne: My focus on the smile is recent, just a couple of years. It is a regular contributor to my happiness. I have seen it operate in the same capacity for many others. I have also met people that are unaffected by it, and a few that have a negative recurrent experience of the smile.
Do you accept donations to your collection?
Adrienne: The Smile Face Museum collection is in large majority accumulated from donations. We don’t de-acquisition. We have a website that features our catalog, as well as an online study room for relevant artworks. We accept donations of objects, images, and videos. We are avid art and tattoo collectors.
To donate images and videos, email email@example.com.
To donate objects, mail them to:
The Smile Face Museum
2493 Xanthia Street
Denver, CO 80238
We have a wish list that we are always updating here.
Adrienne: The production and dispersion of the smile dovetails with the history of manufacturing and technology. It has been a constant companion in culture since the early 60’s. There were many other simple smiling abstract faces before it. The Makapansgat pebble is the oldest face object that I am aware of. The smile is one of the few popular symbols established in the 20th century not owned by a corporation. That is untrue in part - the Smiley Company has a trademark in over 100 countries, though not in the US. The symbol’s history is long and varied.
Do you think the smiley face is here to stay? Will it be around for thousands of years or is this just a blip in human history?
Mark: I can’t predict into the future. They may come and go and show up in different ways and in different venues, but I believe they are here to stay.
Adrienne: I don’t think the smile will fade. There are few libraries that don’t contain it, and its digital presence is deep. The smile is an unlikely candidate for editing out of history. Even symbols with bad or few associations keep traveling and morphing.
11. 228 ½ Boerum Street Artspace
What’s your plan for the future of your collection? What can the public do to help? For those who missed the Brooklyn exhibit, how can they see the collection?
Mark: The 1,000+ items in the exhibit will soon come back to my house where they will be stored. For those who want to see the collection, the best way is by checking out www.thesmilefacemuseum.com.
Adrienne: We will continue to update the website and grow the collection. Currently we are working on gathering material and funds for a print catalog that will be published by What Nothing Press. The Museum is a No Profit organization run by volunteers, and we have a lot of friends that help out, especially on the acquisitions side. We have several solo shows in the planning stages for artists that work at length with the symbol. We plan to do Smile Face Museum exhibitions in the future at my space in Colorado, as well as at other host venues. Mark is interested the Smithsonian as the longterm home for the Smile Face Museum collections, and we will continue to work towards that.
14. Poor Harvey. He didn’t copyright it.
“In 1963, Harvey Ball, an American commercial artist, was employed by State Mutual Life Assurance Company of Worcester, Massachusetts to create a happy face to raise the morale of the employees. Ball created the design in ten minutes and was paid $45 (equivalent to $330 USD in 2012 currency). His rendition, with bright yellow background, dark oval eyes, full smile and creases at the sides of the mouth, was imprinted on more than fifty million buttons and became familiar around the world. The design is so simple that it is certain that similar versions were produced before 1963, including those cited above. However, Ball’s rendition, as described here, has become the most iconic version.”
This movie advertisement from 1953 contains some of the first known modern smiley faces.