Works Like People II utilises art’s ability to challenge and subvert to question notions of what a primary care space should be.

Tom Ellis: Works Like People II

Paintings in Hospitals has partnered with the world-renowned Wallace Collection to commission and deliver a new exhibition by acclaimed contemporary artist Tom Ellis.

The Wallace Collection, one of the most significant collections of fine and decorative arts in the world, has exhibited works by contemporary artists in dialogue with its historic collection for over a decade, whilst, since 1959, Paintings in Hospitals has held the UK’s first and only national art collection specifically created and curated for display within health and social care spaces. It is this common theme and challenge of exhibiting contemporary works in non-neutral, aesthetically-complex environments that so appeals to artist Tom Ellis.


Tom Ellis's work at the Bromley by Bow Centre

Ellis, who has exhibited widely in London, Europe and across the globe, is no stranger to questioning viewers’ expectations in this way: his artistic practice often places paintings and furniture side by side, creating contrasts and tensions within the archetypal gallery space. Ellis’s Works Like People II project will be both a direct extension of, and prelude to, his upcoming exhibition The Middle at the Wallace Collection.

Tom Ellis said:

"Working at the Wallace Collection and with Paintings in Hospitals feels riskier and more challenging than working in the neutral, surprisingly codified environment of the contemporary gallery. Although Hertford House has the opulence of a historic residence, while the GP surgeries have the everyday functionality of working health centres, it is still a form of visual chaos or aesthetic heterogeneity that is simply excluded from the white cube model of display."


Tom Ellis's work at Paddington Green Health Centre

Dr Christoph Vogtherr, Director of the Wallace Collection, said:

"Paintings in Hospitals has provided a welcome opportunity to widen the scope of the project into another, radically different type of space. Tom Ellis has created works for doctors’ surgeries where the same questions as posed in The Middle arise in a different context: What type of art and what display style do we expect in a surgery? Does art in this context necessarily have to aim for the uplifting as might be the social consensus? And what might that mean? Finally – and here we come back to a core question of Tom Ellis’s work: Where are the demarcation lines around ‘art’? How do we identify art in different contexts – in a surgery rather than in a museum, an art gallery or an artist’s studio? Paintings in Hospitals, as much as the programmes at the Wallace Collection, will help to open this exploration up to more and different participants."


Tom Ellis's work at Victoria Medical Centre

The Works Like People II project is specifically conceived with healthcare staff and their patients in mind, to enhance the care environment through the introduction and exploration of complex ideas surrounding comfort and familiarity. The project utilises art’s ability to challenge and subvert to question notions of what a primary care space should be.

Ben Pearce, Director of Paintings in Hospitals, said:

"We are thrilled to be collaborating with Tom Ellis and the Wallace Collection to bring the Works Like People II project to life. Paintings in Hospitals was founded on the belief that everyone, regardless of age, disability or illness, should have access to the proven wellbeing benefits of visual art. Through our partnership with the Wallace Collection and Tom Ellis, we can again ensure that even those who aren’t always able to visit national museums and galleries are still able to experience the very best in contemporary art."


Tom Ellis's work at Mill Hill Surgery, Acton

To help patients, healthcare staff, and the wider public to engage with the Works Like People II project, there will be an accompanying programme of talks, workshops, and creative activities.


Find out more about our Works Like People II project via our series of blogs:

The Power of Uncertainty, The Power of Art by Tom Ellis

Works Like People II: Community by Edwina Mileham, Community Officer at the Wallace Collection

Art Meets Life / Life Meets Art by Lucy Wells, Inclusive Arts Manager at Bromley by Bow Centre


Works Like People II is a joint commission from Paintings in Hospitals and the Wallace Collection. The project is an extension of Ellis’s exhibition The Middle at Hertford House, home of the Wallace Collection, from 15 September until 27 November 2016.

If you have a specific enquiry about the Works Like People II project, you can email us at