Bethlem Royal Hospital, the original 'Bedlam' founded in 1247, is one of the world's oldest hospitals for the care and treatment of people with mental health difficulties.

For over 150 years the hospital has actively collected artwork created by its patients. Specialising in art about mental illness and by those who have suffered from it. The Archives and Museum on site house an outstanding collection of paintings and drawings by artists, past and present. Included are works by Richard Dadd, William Kurelek, Jonathan Martin, Vaslav Nijinsky, Louis Wain, and a growing number of contemporary artists.

The Bethlem Gallery was established in 1997 by Art Co-ordinator Karen Risby after the success of Art Beyond Bedlam, an exhibition organised to mark the 750th anniversary of the Bethlem Royal Hospital. The breadth of talent that emerged from the exhibition highlighted the need for a permanent exhibition space on site at the hospital. Since its inception the gallery has had a vibrant exhibitions programme running throughout the year showcasing both individuals and groups of artists who have experienced mental distress from across South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Over the years, the gallery has earned an international reputation for the originality and talent of its exhibitors.  The gallery provides a professional space for high-quality artwork whilst fostering a supportive patient-focused environment.

The small artist-led team who manage and facilitate the gallery, support and encourage artists who often feel excluded from the art world. The gallery is an ideal platform for experimentation, collaboration and skills exchange. There have also been many successful artist-in-residence projects working with patients and staff to improve the hospital environment. This process strives to develop people’s skills and confidence by focussing on their strengths. With this approach you can help people to develop their careers and equip people with the experience and expertise to increase their potential and opportunities.

“Pills are ok, counselling is ok and it will get you back on the streets, but what keeps your mind alive is what you learn here. That’s what it’s about – keeping your spirit alive.” – Lee, Bethlem artist.

To view the film ‘Signal in the Noise’ about Bethlem Arts by Michael travis click on the following link:

The Bethlem Gallery was founded in 1997 to showcase the inspirational talents of artists who have experienced mental health difficulties from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

Design sketch for the front of Ceramics building

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