Bedlam

Today I went to see the Bedlam exhibit at the Wellcome Collection, and there was a lot to chew on (notables include: the record Symposium in Blues, commissioned by Merck to promote psychiatric medication, paintings of “morphinomania, and a psychiatric patient’s artwork depicting his perfect day in the asylum, which ends with a visit to feed the resident polar bears).  A few choice quotes on the wall alluding to the old adage that the insane in charge lock up the less insane to keep them pacified, which feels really fucking resonant right now.  But anyway!  Here’s one of my favorite things from the exhibit: the artwork commissioned by Wallace Laboratories, makers of Miltown, to depict the glorious transformation undergone by those who take the drug.  And who did they decide to have paint said transformation?  Salvador Dali, naturally.  From Sotheby’s:

Given the artist’s reputation for phantasmagoric images, it may come as no surprise to learn that in 1958, he was commissioned by Wallace Laboratories to design an artwork to promote their psychotropic drug Miltown. A sedative that was popular in Hollywood circles, Miltown was at the time considered to be a miracle cure for anxiety. The resulting project, Crisalida*, was an art installation Dalí built in the shape of a chrysalis. Visitors walked through it to see glass panels illustrating a user’s three stages of healing: from an ominous, hollowed figure, to a feminine form in mid-metamorphosis, and finally, to a healed, whole woman with a head of blooming flowers.

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As my companion said, “I really cannot tell the before and after here.”  Which is to say we both might quibble with the Sotheby’s writer who claims the whole thing is “no surprise.”

*Get it?

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