What does sleep actually mean in terms of our existence as humans? Artists, writers, and philosophers have approached the complex sensory phenomenon in countless different ways, cultivating sleep into a cultural treasure.

The Sleeping Gypsy, Henri Julien Félix Rousseau, 1897: At the time of its unveiling, this painting was misunderstood and rejected by the public. Its integrated symbols are disturbing and play directly on our subconscious. Today, 'The Sleeping Gypsy' belongs to the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

„When you can't sleep because something is bothering you, for heaven's sake don't try counting with clenched fists to thirty-seven thousand four hundred and eighty-six! Instead, make the best of it! After all, you don't really need to sleep. You can also get on nicely without it. Above all, never try to force it; the will is the worst enemy of sleep.“



Image: Salvador Dali, photo by: Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964

short & sweet sleep!

Hurray for the power nap! But beware – if you nap for too long, you're likely to feel sluggish later in the day. Take Salvador Dali, who was an avid midday napper. Dali would plop down on an armchair with a spoon in his hand. As soon as his sleep became deeper, the spoon would come loose between his fingers and fall to the floor. Dali awoke, and feeling refreshed, resumed his work.

sleep while you can

Albert Einstein was not only passionate about physics, but also sleep! He was said to have indulged in 12 hours of shut-eye a day, which in no way prevented him from becoming the most famous physicist of the 20th century. In fact, this exorbitant amount of time spent in the horizontal position actually fueled his mental activity. Rumor has it Einstein came up with his legendary formula "e=mc²" while he was just hanging around and unwinding.


Image: Van Gogh's masterpiece doesn't have a calming effect on everyone. What do you feel when you look at this picture?

Image: Trapped in the media landscape, we move through time like sleepwalkers without traction.

the big sleep

In 2019, sleep - or rather the film noir classic "The Big Sleep" by Howard Hawks, based on a novel by Raymond Chandler - was the title and contextual element of the 4th Artists' Biennale at the Haus der Kunst in Munich. "The Big Sleep" is often understood in literature as a symbol for the unconscious. This parallels the persistent state of stress that characterizes our society today. 32 artists presented their own personal ideas on the topic of sleep, which has become more and more relevant over the past three years.

„It seems that we humans sleep a reverse sleep: our brain sleeps while our body is awake. The body fidgets tirelessly while the brain is paralyzed by an overabundance of similar yet contradictory information absorbed in far too short a time. Things change so quickly that any possible reactions to them are doomed to the past in advance without ever reaching the present.“


- Curator of the 4th Artists' Biennale at the Haus der Kunst in Munich -


Lately viewed