In the eighteenth century, contemporary artists came to together to support the Foundling Hospital and the vulnerable young people in its care. Led by William Hogarth and George Frideric Handel, these painters, sculptors, musicians, performers, furniture makers, architects and clockmakers, forged a tradition of creative philanthropy which continues today.
This display at the Museum included a selection of contemporary works of art that had either been shown previously as part of an exhibition, or were commissioned by the Museum, including three works which were part of 2016 exhibition FOUND, curated by Cornelia Parker: Michael Craig-Martin’s Tricycle, 2016; Yinka Shonibare CBE’s Trumpet Boy, 2010, both acquired in 2017 and Norman Ackroyd’s Infant Graves – Lindores Abbey, 1989. As well as Pablo Bronstein’s Gatehouse Prison, 2015, commissioned for 2016 exhibition Drawing on Childhood; Mary Fedden’s Foundling Hospital Tokens, 2008 and Michael Foreman’s illustration for Lucky Button first exhibited in 2018. Also on display are Michael Foreman’s and Angela Barrett’s commissioned Christmas card illustrations.
Also showing was Nicola Bealing’s Joyful News to Batchelors and Maids, 2018 which was on loan to the Museum. Joyful News takes as its starting point a ballad written to poke fun at the Foundling Hospital, suggesting that it would serve to encourage promiscuity. It was shown at the Museum in 2019 in A New Song (to an Old Tune), a display of new paintings and prints by Bealing inspired by subjects, images and narratives in seventeenth and eighteenth-century broadside ballads. Originally songs about current events, some ballads quickly became perennial favourites. New and old songs were sold on the street in the form of cheap sheet music.
The Foundling Museum works to transform the lives of disadvantaged children through the arts. Artists, writers and musicians collaborate with the museum across its programmes as Fellows, curators, exhibition contributors, project leaders and performers. Many of our past and present Foundling Fellows are busy right now with creative projects for children and adults to get involved in during the current crisis.
Recent exhibitions featuring contemporary work included Hogarth & the Art of Noise with a specially commissioned sound installation by Martin Ware and Sea featuring site responsive sculptures by Jodie Carey. Recent photography exhibitions addressing pressing social issues faced by children and families include Mark Neville’s Child’s Play and Bedrooms of London, featuring photographs by Katie Wilson, which was created in collaboration with The Childhood Trust.