School of Arts | Our research | The Peltz Gallery: Exhibition space in Birkbeck’s School of Arts
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15 May – 25 July 2017: The Adamson Collection

The Adamson Collection is one of the world’s largest collections of artworks made by psychiatric patients. It consists of approximately 6,000 paintings, drawings and sculptural objects, produced between 1946 and 1981 by the residents of Netherne, a long-stay British mental hospital, under the guidance of Edward Adamson.

Adamson (1911-1996) was initially engaged to assist with research into the relationship between mental illness and creativity: as a professional artist, his job was to encourage the patients to paint, with the resulting works transferred to clinicians for analysis. After the study ended in 1951, Adamson established an open studio where residents were allowed to come and paint freely. He rejected the diagnostic focus of the earlier experiments, convinced that the very process of art making was therapy enough, and that creative expression could be a tool to help people find their way back to wellness.

This exhibition displays selected works by eight people, chosen for their distinctive visual styles and particular histories. By presenting these individuals as artists, rather than as un-named and undifferentiated psychiatric patients, and framing their objects as artworks, the exhibition highlights the aesthetic, personal and historical dimensions of the collection, whilst remaining sensitive to its medical and therapeutic contexts.

Programme of events:

Further information can be found on the exhibition website: https://mramovesinmysteriousways.wordpress.com

Image credit: Helen Greig, The Foetus / Rebirth. Credit: Adamson Collection / Wellcome Trust.