The exhibition A Different World – Art from Sankt Lars Hospital (En annan värld – konst från Sankt Lars sjukhus) displays more than 70 works of art created by patients admitted to Sankt Lars Hospital over a period of a hundred years, starting in the 1880s. The works are exciting and suggestive, with unexpected motifs and compositions that fire the imagination. This form of art has often been called ‘outsider art’ or ‘patient art’. Opened 23 September 2023.
The objects form part of Region Skåne’s medical history collections, which have been entrusted to Kulturen by Region Skåne. It is, in a way, correct to refer to these works as ‘patient art’, as they were created by patients in the hospital. At the same time, they demonstrate a desire to create and communicate – very universal needs shared by all people.
Some of the creators, such as Carl Fredrik Hill and Ernst Ljungh, were professionally educated artists. What most of the artworks have in common is that they have left the world of traditional imagery behind.
Many of the artworks have been created using materials that happened to be available in the hospital. The red yarn that the hospital kept for marking was much used. However, hospital attitudes to free, artistic creativity depended entirely on which ward the patients were admitted to. On the first-class wards, access to materials for needlework was generous. This type of work was considered part of the patients’ readjustment to daily life outside the hospital walls.
On the communal wards, attitudes were much more restrictive. The patients were primarily supposed to spend their time doing useful tasks that contributed to the running of the hospital.
From the interest of doctors to the interest of artists
The fact that the works have been preserved in the first place can be explained by the interest shown in them by medical practitioners in the late 19th century. Works were collected and analysed, but any scientific results were noticeably absent. Instead, the ‘art of the insane’ drew the attention of another group – artists. The odd, deviant and unique was desirable in the avant-garde art movements that developed in the early 20th century.
In the 1940s, the French artist Jean Dubuffet wrote a manifesto stating that ‘rough art’ (Fr. l’art brut) was an ideal for the whole art world to strive for. In 1972, the first book in English about this artform was published, Roger Cardinal’s Outsider Art.
Sankt Lars Hospital
During the second half of the 19th century, large so-called mental hospitals were built across Sweden. One of them was Lund Hospital, completed in 1879. Patients were no longer supposed to be simply locked up, they were offered treatment, fresh air and rest in light and ordered surroundings. It soon became apparent that many patients could not be cured. Consequently, an ‘asylum’ was opened south of the river Höje in 1891. Patients considered incurable were placed there. In 1931, the hospital changed its name to Sankt Lars Hospital.
The exhibition has been produced by Kulturen in Lund.
On display indefinitely.
Enter through Ystadhuset (No. 26 on the visitor map).
The exhibition publication includes articles by curator Mats Engström and art critic Thomas Millroth. Read the publication texts in English here on the web.