In 2016, we partnered with the world-renowned Wallace Collection to commission and deliver new site-specific works 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 appealed to artist Tom Ellis.

Works Like People II work at Paddington Green Health Centre

Tom, 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. Tom’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 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.

Works Like People II work at the Bromley by Bow 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 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 was 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 this 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 art. Through our partnership with the Wallace Collection, 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.

To help patients, care staff, and the public make the best of the Works Like People II project, there was an accompanying programme of talks, workshops, and creative activities.

Find out more about this project in our blog...