London hospital commissions art to be part of cure

New cancer centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ will feature works by artists including Daniel Silver and Angela Bulloch

A series of site-specific commissions by artists will form part of a cancer centre opening next year at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in Southwark, central London. Mariele Neudecker and Angela Bulloch, as well as London-born Daniel Silver and the German designer Gitta Gschwendtner, are involved.

The works are part of an arts programme funded by Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity and curated by the cultural consultancy Futurecity. The new centre, which consists of a series of “villages” for different treatment areas, has been designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Stantec.

A press statement says: “Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity has provided a grant of £1.7m for visual and performing arts; no National Health Service funds will be spent on the arts.” A patient reference group has advised on the commissions.

Silver’s work is influenced by Greek and Roman sculpture. His public art piece at the hospital has been inspired by a Roman boat encased beneath the building. “Taking the boat, found buried 4.8 metres underneath the site upon which the new cancer centre is being built, as the starting point seemed fitting in relation to my own practice,” he says.

His own boat sculpture will be “a starting point for the visitors who will pass it… to be engaged and curious, and perhaps inspired to look to the past and the future on their own journey”.

Gschwendtner has focused on the main reception area, developing “a series of seating clusters, with extended translucent screens supporting floating seats, that add playful layers of nuanced colour to the space”, according to a project statement.

German-born Neudecker will create two works for the hospital lifts: a glass window with an exterior view of London, and a monitor that will play a video piece evoking the rainforest. Bulloch will make a series of light clusters based on her pixelated lightbox work that will radiate throughout the public spaces of the new centre.

A number of UK initiatives use art to help improve patients’ health: the London-based charity Paintings in Hospitals, which runs loan schemes for health and social care sites, aims to “improve the wellbeing of people with illness, addiction, autism, disability, along with the people caring for them”. Meanwhile, an art collection is being assembled by the Maggie’s Centres network of drop-in centres for cancer patients, which are located in the grounds of NHS hospitals. Works by Antony Gormley, Roy Lichtenstein and Eduardo Paolozzi are on show in its venues countrywide.