Bethlem Hospital museum showcases role of art in mental health

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The Bethlem Gallery and Museum in south London is reopening in a newly designed space, with an aim to showcase how art can help mental health.

The Museum was set up in 1970 to tell the story of Bethlem Royal Hospital, which was infamous in the 18th and 19th centuries as the “Bedlam” asylum.

The hospital is currently located in Bromley, south London, and in 1997 the Bethlem Gallery was launched to support and exhibit artists who are current or former patients of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

The gallery and museum are now being brought together in a redesigned space at the hospital’s administration buildings. The project has been led by architect Fraser Brown MacKenna working with interiors consultancy Real Studios.

The building’s Art Deco staircase is flanked by the “Raving” and “Melancholy” Madness statues that originally stood above the gates of the “Bedlam” asylum.

The new museum is around four times the size of the previous space. It features a suite of permanent gallery spaces, a dedicated space for special exhibitions, a new education and learning area and a contemporary gallery for artists who have experience mental difficulties.

Bethlem Gallery says the overhaul will “secure the unique collections for future generations and enable the public to see more of the incedible artwork both from the historic collection and from current artists involved with our services today”.

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