London 2009 – Day 25 – Bobby Baker is Nuts

A gallery favourite of mine is the Wellcome Collection. They have opened some new galleries and expanded others. Last year featured an extensive exhibition on the science and social norms of sleep. This year brings us madness, specifically Madness & Modernity: Mental illness and the visual arts in Vienna 1900 as well as Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings: Mental illness and me, 1997-2008.

Madness & Modernity examines the role that mental illness had in the arts and architecture associated with the Secessionist movement in Austrian arts arising in Vienna at the turn of the last century.  I really took to this exhibit, which included some wonderful examples of the architecture of Otto Wagner, specifically St. Leopold’s Church:

Otto Wagner - St. Leopolds

The final church was not quite to this spec, but quite impressive.

Also featured were some of the furniture, fixtures, equipment and textiles.  I love this textile by Joseph Hoffman, called Sehnsocht or “Longing

Joseph Hoffman - Sehnsocht "Longing"

Here is some of the therapy equipment:


There is also a large selection of artwork by patients and of patients, in The Pathological Artist and The Pathological Patron sections of the exhibit.  Here is a sample, Portrait of Lotte Franzos by Oskar Kokoschka:

Next door is the Bobby Baker diary drawings, and they are something else!  This is an exhibit that X would have loved to see, and I wish they had an exhibit catalogue that I could bring back, but alas there is none.

Bobby Baker is a performance artist, and quite a successful one.  Over about a decade, from 1997 to 2008, however, she battled mental illness.  During this time she filled dozens of sketch books with daily drawings and paintings as a sort of therapy.  About one or two hundred of these are on display in this exhibit, and they provide a chilling and yet affirming window into the soul of someone sick.  Here is a small sample.  I really recommend checking out the rest of the images online:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *