Press release

'Skin' events programme announced

Wellcome Collection in central London today announces details of the events programme to support this year’s summer exhibition - ‘Skin’.

The events range from lively talks, discussions and activities on topics such as tattoos and the facts behind the hype of popular skin products to a major symposium on nudity and a performance event on skin's elasticity by Amsterdam's PARS Foundation. For full events details see below.

The 'Skin' exhibition follows on from the success of Wellcome Collection's recent exhibitions, which have looked at mental health and identity.

Skin: 10 June-26 September
Press preview: Wednesday 9 June, 09.30-13.00. A chance to preview the exhibition and meet with the curators. Contact Mike Findlay for details.
Venue: Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE. Admission is FREE.

The multidisciplinary exhibition 'Skin' takes a predominantly historical approach, beginning with early anatomical thought in the 16th and 17th centuries when, for anatomists, the skin was simply something to be removed and discarded in order to study the internal organs. The story continues through the 18th and 19th centuries and approaches its conclusion in the 20th, by which time the skin was considered to be of much greater significance and studied as an organ in its own right.

The exhibition will incorporate early medical drawings, 19th-century paintings, anatomical models and cultural artefacts juxtaposed with sculpture, photography, and film works by artists including Helen Chadwick and Wim Delvoye.

'Skin' will be complemented by the 'Skin Lab', which features artistic responses to developments in plastic surgery, scar treatments and synthetic skin technologies, including two newly commissioned works by the artists Rhian Solomon and Gemma Anderson. Visitors are invited to participate in an interactive and sensory experience - experimenting with skin-flap models used in plastic surgery, trying on latex skin-suits or studying biological jewellery.

Javier Moscoso, Research Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), and Curator of the exhibition, comments: "This exhibition focuses on the historical transformation of both the scientific understanding and cultural significance of human skin, plotting it as beliefs, facts and popular mindsets have all evolved. Taking a historical and cultural perspective, the exhibition showcases a range of startling exhibits that will provoke a variety of reactions at different levels by different types of public."

Lucy Shanahan, Wellcome Collection Curator and co-curator of 'Skin', adds: "The last decade has revealed a burgeoning interest and fascination with human skin, particularly among philosophers, writers, artists and designers. Meanwhile, regenerative medicine has seen major advances in the development of artificial skin designed to improve the structure, function and appearance of the body surface that has been damaged by disease, injury or ageing. So there couldn't be a better time to get under the surface of this subject."

'Skin' has been designed by Spanish company Jesus Moreno Associates. 
The Skin Lab component of the exhibition has been designed by London-based practice Maison Beton.

'Skin' accompanying events programme

Insights session - The Quest for Perfect Skin
Thursday 17 June, Thursday 9 September, 18.00-19.00
A lively discussion on how the marketing of skin preparations to women reflects 17th-century society and politics. This event draws on items from the Wellcome Library, including domestic recipe books, printed marketing material and books that explore the ingredients of cosmetics recipes.

Stefania Crowther, Wellome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL
Helen Wakely, Archivist, Wellcome Library

The Science of Healthy Skin
Thursday 1 July, 19.00-20.30
Ever wondered about the science behind the sensationalised claims of beauty products? Is that expensive face cream really any more effective than cheap own-brand basics? What are the secrets of healthy skin? This one-off event presents you with a chance to question the reality behind the headlines.

Join our 'Question Time'-style panel of experts who will give a frank examination of the facts rather than the hype on how to avoid premature wrinkles and skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis.
FREE tickets must be booked in advance.

Friday 16 July, 19.00-21.00 and Saturday 17 July, 10.30-17.00
A rare chance to indulge our intrigue - or embarrassment - about nudity. This event could not happen anywhere else! Often seen as taboo, sometimes as something to be celebrated, nudity is a fascinating topic for discussion, debate and exploration.

Staggered over two days, this special event will begin on Friday evening with literary readings introduced and chosen by Steven Connor. The Saturday will bring together experts from the worlds of anthropology, history of art and evolutionary science to explore how bare skin is understood in different cultures, how nudity makes us feel and how our ancestors evolved to reveal their bare skin in the first place.

Sir Walter Bodmer, geneticist, will explain how we became the naked ape; Rebecca Arnold, historian of fashion, will discuss how our clothes have changed through the ages; and Javier Moscoso, curator, will give an introduction to the 'Skin' exhibition. Further speakers TBC.

Chair: Brian Dillon, writer and critic
Tickets must be booked in advance.
£30 full price/£20 concession for both days, including refreshments and lunch.

Tattoos: Marks of meaning
Thursday 22 July, 19.00-20.30
Arguably the Marmite of the skin world - either loved or loathed - tattoos play a significant role in expressing our personalities, passions and emotions.

This evening discussion will explore the cultural and personal significance of tattoos from a number of perspectives: indicating belonging and inclusion; displaying difference and rejection of the 'norm'; documenting life experiences; the interaction of tattoo artist and client.
FREE tickets must be booked in advance.

Getting Under Your Skin
Friday 30 July, 12.00-17.00
Scratch beneath the surface of the epidermis during this full afternoon of fun activities throughout the Wellcome Collection building. Activities are suitable for all ages.

  • Examine your skin under a microscope and see extraordinary images from the Wellcome Library.
  • Try drawing your anatomy on the surface of your skin.
  • ​Meet the artist Rhian Solomon and handle some of her original prototypes.
  • ​Contribute to a sculpture of tattoos with poet Aoife Mannix.

This event is free. No need to book, just drop in.

Treat on Elasticity
Thursday 9 September, 19.00-20.30
The PARS Foundation from Amsterdam invite you to join them for a 'Treat on Elasticity'. Expand the way you think about skin by watching and listening to artists and scientists share their passion and knowledge about the subject, and indulge your senses by stretching your perceptions of skin and elasticity.

Sample projects:

  • An innovative and groundbreaking designer shows how she manipulates bacterial growth on skin to take on the semblance of new clothes. Freed from the information about material and social hierarchy, this new skin tells a story about our present perception of us as human beings.
  • A composer who is fascinated by the mechanics of music and who builds his own sound boxes seduces the audience from seeing and observing 'skin', to literally experiencing elasticity through the ears.
  • Elasticity defines our skin but is equally revealing about our state of mind. A neurobiologist will talk about the brain's amazingly elastic ability to restore itself.

A dancer who works with huge elastic bands will round off the 'Treat on Elasticity'. Attaching huge elastic bands to the wall the audience will be invited to experiment with their own elasticity: skin encountering material through touch and movement.

The PARS Foundation aims to engage people in a way that stimulates mutual inspiration and generates trans-disciplinary knowledge from fresh, invigorative perspectives.
FREE tickets must be booked in advance.

Packed Lunch - Artificial Skin
Friday 10 September, 13.00-13.45

A special Packed Lunch to tie in with the 'Skin' exhibition will feature a clinician working with artificial skin and skin grafts, who can tell us about the pathway from lab bench to hospital ward, and give an insight into contemporary skin graft technology.
This event is free. No need to book, just drop in.