The Wellcome Collection is a unique venue on Euston road exploring the connections between medicine, life and art. We recently organized a guided tour of the highlights of the collection which was a great success.
As soon as you enter the venue, you see contemporary works displayed in the hallway: a sculpture exploring HIV by Mark Quinn, an Antony Gormley’s sculpture hanging upside down from the ceiling, a remarkable work “Hanging”, from Israeli Artist Aya Ben Ron which can be seen from the different floors.
The Wellcome Collection was the work of Sir Henry Wellcome, who owned a multinational pharmaceutical company during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He was an avid collector of historical objects, especially having to do with the development of medicine and medicinal practice. His collection includes fascinating and obscure objects such as Napoleon’s toothbrush or George III’s hair. Our tour was led by a fantastic Wellcome Collection guide who showed us some of the highlights of this amazing collection.
There are two permanent exhibitions: ‘Medicine Man’ showcasing a mix of objects from Sir Henry’s original collection and ‘Medicine Now’ looking at contemporary medical topics through the eyes of scientists, artists and popular culture.
The largest gallery on the ground floor, hosts temporary exhibitions around topics of medical, cultural and ethical significance. The Wellcome Collection regularly commissions artists. This autumn, when you enter the building, the noise from the traffic on the Euston Road is replaced by the sound of waves breaking onto pebbles with ‘White Sound: an urban seascape’, a work by artist Bill Fontana.
One of the fascinating objects featured on the tour was a mask used by a medicine man in Sri Lanka to cure illness. It was in fact used to scare away diarrhoea. This type of mask was usually decorated to resemble suffering from the disease. Another item of interest, was Charles Darwin’s walking stick which features a skull with emerald gemstone eyes. Many of the objects on display are surprising and unexpected, exemplified in these Chinese porcelain fruit with representations of couples engaged in sexual foreplay. There are also many rather disturbing items on display such as the ornate and gruesome amputation saws of the which there are many in the collection.
The anecdotes and history that the tour guide provided during our visit proved invaluable to getting the most out of our experience.
The Wellcome Collection also include a floor dedicated to events. It is an ideal venue for meetings and conferences . Please contact us for any information.
Image courtesy of the Wellcome Collection