Bedlam: the asylum and beyond

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Maudsley Charity have been working in partnership with Bethlem Gallery and Museum and the Adamson Collection Trust to support a new exhibition at Wellcome Collection. Bedlam: the asylum and beyond explores the history of the mental health hospital through the lens of Bethlem Royal Hospital, and opens on 15 September.

The exhibition follows the rise and fall of the mental asylum and explores how it has shaped the complex landscape of mental health today.

Taking Bethlem Royal Hospital as a starting point, ‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ displays historical material and medical records alongside individual testimonies and works by artists, emphasising the perspectives and lived experiences of individuals.  

The exhibition has been co-curated by Mike Jay a Trustee of Bethlem Museum of the Mind, author and historian, alongside Wellcome Collection’s Bárbara Rodríguez Muñoz. Mike says: “Preserved in popular imagination as ‘Bedlam’, the Bethlem Royal Hospital is perhaps the oldest institution of its kind in the world, and has witnessed the entire history of mental illness and psychiatry. Its story is the perfect focus for Wellcome Collection to explore how medicine, art and culture define mental illness, and the big questions it raises about the individual and society.”

A key part of the project is the collaboration between Bethlem Gallery & Museum and Wellcome Collection which sees a number of works on display by Contemporary Artists as well as objects from the historical archives on display.

Also on show is ‘Abandoned Goods’  an essay film by Pia Borg and Edward Lawrenson tells the story of over 5500 pieces of patient artwork, collectively known as the Adamson Collection. Much of the work is still available for the public to see at Lambeth Hospital.

‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ will run at Wellcome Collection from 15 September 2016 to 15 January 2017.

This Way Madness Lies: The asylum and beyond, a book by Mike Jay produced to accompany the exhibition, is published by Thames & Hudson.

You can find out more about the exhibition here: https://wellcomecollection.org/bedlam

Bringing the themes of the exhibition to south London a parallel series of exhibitions and events will run across South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and partners between September and January including major exhibitions at Bethlem Gallery and Museum and Maudsley Long Gallery. Download an events guide here (pdf).

Notes to editors

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Bethlem Royal Hospital
Bethlem Royal Hospital is the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world and is a provider of mental health services for people locally and specialist services for people from across the U.K. Today the hospital is part of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, one of the largest providers of mental health services in England. For more information on our services please visit: www.slam.nhs.uk

Maudsley Charity
Maudsley Charity supports mental health and wellbeing by investing in projects that aid innovation in health services; training and education; and research and infrastructure. For more information visit: www.maudsleycharity.org

Bethlem Gallery
The Bethlem Gallery, funded by the Maudsley Charity, was established in 1997 to provide a professional platform for artists who are current or former patients of South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Exhibitions and events are programmed throughout the year presenting a wide range of media and contemporary practice. www.bethlemgallery.com

Bethlem Museum of the Mind
The museum, funded by the Maudsley Charity, cares for an internationally renowned collection of archives, art and historic objects, which together offer an unparalleled resource to support the history of mental healthcare and treatment. www.museumofthemind.org.uk

Adamson Collection Trust
Supported by the Maudsley Charity and Wellcome Collection, The Adamson Collection is one of the major international collections of art objects made by people who lived in European mental asylums. It holds about 5,500 objects (paintings, drawings, ceramics, sculptures, and works on stone, flint and bone) created between 1946 and 1981, by people at the British long-stay mental hospital, Netherne.

The Collection is important in the histories of British asylums and post-war psychiatry, of art therapy and Jungians and of outsider art. It was encouraged and collected by an artist Edward Adamson, rather than a psychiatrist, and strongly represents the work of women.

The Adamson Collection Trust (ACT) was founded in 1978 to promote the life and work of Edward Adamson. www.adamsoncollectiontrust.org

Maudsley Long Gallery
A Maudsley Charity grant enabled the transformation of a former disused hospital corridor into a public art space, the Maudsley Long Gallery, opening the hospital space to the community and helping to break down stigma. www.slam.nhs.uk/longgallery

For more information contact: Richard Morley, Senior Communications and Media Officer, 020 3228 2830 email: richard.morley@slam.nhs.uk

Interviews and images available on request.

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