27 November 2008
Medicine Now is a permanent collection on display at the Wellcome Exhibition Centre. Embodying Henry Wellcome’s vision to educate and inform, curators, Steve Cross and Ken Arnold have combined current medical issues with artistic response.
Elements of the Wunderkammer approach are used by designer Gitta Gschwendtner. This encourages visitors to open cabinet drawers, thereby engaging them more fully. The 350m2 open plan space is divided into sections by geometric red booth-like structures, which display commissions created by artists especially for the gallery and tall open shelving units housing articles of scientific interest.
To the left is an area where visitors can sit at one of three tables and reflect upon the role of scientist, doctor or patient. There are “sit and listen” chairs, interactive sculptures and video installations amongst the more classical art methods. Four themes divide the room: body, genomes, malaria and obesity. The exhibition focuses upon opening a debate within each topic as well as drawing parallels between the different ideologies that they represent.
Reviews on the exhibition have been mixed, most often underwhelming in praise. “... a clever, immaculately curated, endlessly stimulating fusion of science, art, public education and responsive design”, was one. Less encouraging, is a statement from a New York Times journalist, “banal and uninformative” , “mixes unimpressive contemporary artworks with cursory discussions ”.
Other responses have ranged from cynicism about a possible reason for the focus on malaria being due to Wellcome Trust’s investment into the disease, to a more sympathetic approach about a lack of space being the reason that many other topics are glanced at, such as HIV Aids or ignored, such as depression or abortion.
With its clinical geometric typographic labelling and shelving, the exhibition removes itself from the real “dirty”
References: Lin-Nam Wang, writer for The Pharmaceutical Journal. Vol. 279, No. 7459, p21-22 http://www.pharmj.com/editorial/20070707/reviews/p21wellcome.html