Unexpected Happiness


National Design Centre, Singapore

(c) Nicola Anthony, 2018, British Sculptor, Unexpected Happiness, National Design Centre Singapore.jpg

an artwork about the human spirit at the edge of joy and sorrow

Acrylic & mixed media. 500 x 500 x 300cm

Commissioned for National Design Centre, Singapore

This artwork collected stories of serendipity from hundreds of people nationwide, to become an artwork about the human spirit at the edge of joy and sorrow.

We are all searching for happiness, and in a way many of us are programmed to enjoy the search more than the happiness itself. We are easily bored of our satisfactions and move on to the next desire, fashion or whimsy: never sated and always searching for the next pleasure.


In my research over the years I have spoken to many individuals who have generously shared their stories for me to retell in sculptural form. One thing I observed from these humbling conversations is that those I spoke to who had the most difficult and challenging stories to tell, also expressed the purest sense of happiness and joy. It will always remain unknown how happy we all are relative to each other, but I certainly get a sense that those who found happiness after struggle were the ones who recognised, appreciated and basked in that joy the most - even if it was just a fleeting moment. 


This artwork aims to take a look at those stories and experiences in particular, and it began with a call out on my public research platform HumanArchiveProject.com to anonymously collect stories of unexpected happiness. 


The resulting artwork contains the stories of 200 people (digitally) and in its physical form currently at Singapore’s National Design Centre features four key stories: A woman who risked loosing her sight during an operation and felt an unexpected, utter joy when she emerged and was bowled over by the usually commonplace sight of her colourful garden; a walker who had an unusual moment of setting caged birds free at the top of a hill in Yorkshire and realised the powerful value of of freedom; a young lady who finally found the kind of love which overwhelmed her entirely, something she never expected she would have; and an individual who realised that happiness comes from a sense of connection, from kindred spirits.

Unexpected Happiness, Nicola Anthony, detail, 2018. National Design Centre.

Unexpected Happiness, Nicola Anthony, detail, 2018. National Design Centre.

Visit this artwork

This artwork is permanently located at Singapore's National Design Centre.



Thank you to Keepers for making this installation possible, to our organisers, and especially to Singapore's National Design Centre for giving this artwork a home as part of their permanent collection.