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The Future is Fragile flag by Agnes Denes waving above Tate Britain

Healing Arts London

The first Healing Arts city-wide activation, launched in response to COVID-19-related mental health crises. Events included virtual dialogues, artists’ house calls, and a Christie’s charity auction series.


Healing Arts


11 November 2020 – 2 July 2021


London, United Kingdom

Project Organisers


UN Affiliate

Media Partner

Youtube Playlist

The Art Newspaper Healing Arts London

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Press Release

Healing Arts London

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Press Release

WHO Foundation - Agnes Denes raises flag above Tate Britain as cultural call to action in response to planetary health crisis.

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This first Healing Arts city-wide activation was launched during the pandemic, as a cultural call to action in response to the growing mental health crisis. Produced by Culturunners as part of WHO’s series of solidarity events, Healing Arts London brought together a coalition of partners including University College London, Tate, The Art Newspaper, the National Centre for Creative Health, and Community Jameel. 
Events included a series of charity auctions hosted by Christie's, featuring Antony Gormley, Ahmed Mater, Ragnar Kjartansson, William Kentridge, Martin Creed, and Yoshitomo Nara; high-profile virtual dialogues with Gillian Anderson (actor) and Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus (Director-General, WHO), among others; artists’ house calls hosted by The Art Newspaper; and a public art installation by Agnes Denes at Tate Britain.

11–24 November 2020 | Healing Arts Charity Auction

Middle Eastern, Modern & Contemporary Art

Ahmed Mater: Magnetism

Magnetism by Ahmed Mater realised a price of $120,000, braking the artist’s record at auction. This sale marked the launch of our 14 month cultural call-to-action to support a global COVID-19 response through the arts; specifically to address the growing mental health crisis and the applied use of art in a healthcare context.

22 March 2021 | Day 1: Frame of Mind

A Conversation About Arts and Healing

No part of the world was left untouched by the pandemic. COVID-19 not only affected the health of millions and caused massive social and economic disruption but has taken a silent toll, through the isolation, anxiety, financial hardship, and grief it brought to all communities. For this event, actor Gillian Anderson (actor) and Christopher Bailey (Arts & Health Lead, WHO) shared personal stories about the power of art to help bring comfort, confront difficult social problems, and build community. They were joined by special guests Sir Antony Gormley (artist) and Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus (Director-General, WHO).

23 March 2021 | Day 2: Artist's House Calls

Videos of Creation in Confinement

The Art Newspaper’s Ben Luke invited audiences into rarely seen places of creation, visiting the studios of leading artists, architects, and frontline workers to hear first-hand their understanding of how practising art heals, including during the period of global confinement. Participants included William Kentridge and Phala Phala (The Centre for the Less Good Idea), Ragnar Kjartansson (artist), Susie Hamilton (Hospital Rooms), and Hani Rashid (Asymptote Architecture) in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist (curator and Director, Serpentine Galleries), Jonathan Aitken (Chaplain, Pentonville Prison), and Dan Brown (prison reform advocate).

24 March 2021 | Day 3

Session 1: Does Art Heal? - What is the evidence? What should the policy be?

Researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers came together to ask the question: What is the verifiable evidence that art heals? And also: What does that mean? What are the implications for health care and the arts community? Specialists explored what is currently known about the health benefits of the arts, and how society can best take advantage of them.  The dialogue was moderated by Dr Alexander Van Tulleken (doctor and TV presenter), with Professor Helen Chatterjee (Biosciences, University College, London (UCL)), Associate Professor Daisy Fancourt (Psychobiology and Epidemiology, UCL), Harold Offeh (artist and participant in the Hospital Rooms), Christopher Bailey (Art & Health Lead, WHO), Dévora Kestel (Director, Department of Mental Health, WHO), Edward Lord Vaizey (former UK Minister of Culture), and Alexandra Coulter (Acting Director, National Centre for Creative Health).

Session 2: Patterns in the Fog - A panel discussion on dementia and the arts

Introduced by Dr Sara Garfield (co-chair, UCL School of Pharmacy Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Public Engagement Group) and moderated by Christopher Bailey (Art & Health Lead, WHO), this dialogue co-hosted by UCL’s School of Pharmacy brought together caregivers, patients, pharmacists, and neurologists to address the role of the arts in supporting mental health and therapy for people living with dementia. Participants included Dr Claudia Manzoni (Lecturer in Translational Neuroscience, UCL School of Pharmacy) and Anne Child (Consultant Pharmacist for Older People, who d has been awarded an MBE for services to dementia), Keith Oliver (a person living with dementia, together with his friend Jen Holland), Diane Waller (Arts Therapy Professor Emeritus, Goldsmiths University of London), and Veronica Franklin Gould (President, Arts 4 Dementia).

25 March 2021 | Day 4: Healing Arts Charity Auction

Christie's post-war and contemporary London sale

Dirk Boll (President of Christie’s, Europe, Middle East, Russia, and India) introduced the Healing Arts section of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary London sale, featuring contemporary masters including Antony Gormley, William Kentridge, Martin Creed, Ragnar Kjartansson, and Yoshitomo Nara. The auction was part of the Healing Arts auction series, which launched in November 2021 with the record-breaking sale of Magnetism by Ahmed Mater. Auction proceeds benefited the WHO COVID-19 rapid response, including the Artists’ Response Fund to support artist-led projects that directly facilitate community healing, and healthcare messaging on the frontline of the pandemic. Mater said, “As an artist-physician, I have donated my Mecca-inspired Magnetism installation to express solidarity with the World Health Organization.”

26 March 2021 | Day 5: Artists on the Frontline

A panel on Art's role in community healing

This panel discussed how artists working on the frontlines of the pandemic might change art world systems and values of past decades. Chaired by Anna Somers Cocks (Founder Editor, The Art Newspaper) and featuring Cara Courage (Head, Tate Exchange, Tate Museums), Phyll Opoku-Gyimah (Co-Founder, UK Black Pride), and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (Director, Castello di Rivoli Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Turin), the panel explored how the pandemic made us question everything from our economic systems to the role of the state and the purpose of art. It asked what artists were doing to help and what was their responsibility. The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone everywhere, but hardest hit were communities at the edges of society, experiencing social, economic, or conflict-driven hardship.

13 April 2021 | Artists Response Fund Launch

The Future is Fragile, Handle with Care

Raising of Agnes Dene's Flag Above Tate Britain 

The 90-year-old American environmental artist Agnes Denes, who planted a wheat field against the backdrop of New York’s Twin Towers in 1982, raised her flag “The Future is Fragile, Handle with Care" on the roof of Tate Britain as a cultural call to action in response to the dual crisis of COVID-19 and climate change. The installation marked the conclusion of Healing Arts London and the launch of a global campaign, under the auspices of WHO, to support improved mental, social, and environmental health in the wake of the pandemic.

8 June 2021 | Goals House @ G7

Creativity on the Mind - Leveraging the arts to reimagine healthcare

Fady Jameel (Vice Chairman, Community Jameel) and Christopher Bailey (Arts & Health Lead, WHO) hosted this live-streamed panel discussion.The arts are emerging as a powerful force in the global effort to improve our mental health, and the panel explored if arts-based interventions measurably improve health outcomes, from psychiatric wards to prisons, to end-of-life care, dementia, and trauma. At Goals House, on the sidelines of the G7 meeting in London, Community Jameel, the Healing Arts, and WHO’s Arts & Health Programme convened a high-level meeting to build a broad coalition focused on scaling up the role of the arts in healthcare.

2 July 2021 | Healing Arts Charity Auction

Christie's post-war and contemporary day sale

The July Post-War and Contemporary Day Sale at Christie's features donated by artwork by Spanish artist Miquel Barceló.


  • Ggardner 1000 9ed0fd83c0e67da5bb1852cd50586505
  • Goals House G7 69
  • Agnes Denes Tate Britain 29 03 2021 Thierry Bal 72
  • Agnes Denes Tate Britain 29 03 2021 Thierry Bal 59
  • Agnes Denes Tate Britain 29 03 2021 Thierry Bal 90

Gillian Anderson, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Antony Gormley, Christopher Bailey who attended Healing Arts London 2021.

Ceramic installation at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, by Adam Nathaniel Furman, photo by Gareth Gardner

Mr Samsa Bullfighting his Son, Miquel Barceló, Watercolour on paper 12 5/8 x 20in. (32.2 x 50.8cm.), 2019.

Goals House @ G7 Creativity on the Mind - Leveraging the arts to reimagine healthcare

Agnes Denes' 'The Future is Fragile' flag displayed on the steps of Tate Britain.

Agnes Denes' 'The Future is Fragile' flag displayed on the steps of Tate Britain.

Agnes Denes' 'The Future is Fragile' flag raised over Tate Britain.


Christopher Bailey

Christopher Bailey

Lab Co-Director


Ahmed Mater


Dr tedros thumbnail 1536x1536

Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus

Director General of the World Health Organisation


Gillian Anderson

Film, Television and Theater Actress

Antony Gormley

Antony Gormley



Ragnar Kjartansson



Phala Ookeditse Phala

Animatuer | The Centre for the Less Good Idea


William Kentridge

Artist and Founder of the Centre for the Less Good Idea


Susie Hamilton



Jonathan Aitken

Chaplain, Pentonville Prison


Hani Rashid

Artist & Architect


Hans Ulrich Obrist

Curator, Art Critic & Historian


Dan Brown

Prison Reform Advocate


Harold Offeh

Artist & Participant of the Hospital Rooms


Professor Helen Chatterjee

Professor of Biology at University College London (UCL) Biosciences


Edward Lord Vaizey

Member of Parliament


Dévora Kestel

WHO Director the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use


Dr. Daisy Fancourt

Associate Professor of Psychobiology & Epidemiology, University College London


Anne Child

Pharmacy and Dementia Specialist Lead


Jen Holland

Psychology Graduate & Photographer


Keith Oliver

Educator & Mental Health Advocate


Veronica Franklin Gould

Founder, Arts 4 Dementia (A4D)


Alexandra Coulter

Acting Director for the National Centre for Creative Health


Dr. Xand Van Tulleken

Doctor & TV Presenter


Professor Diane Waller OBE

Emeritus Professor of Art Psychotherapy at Goldsmiths, University of London


Dr. Claudia Manzoni

Lecturer in Translational Neuroscience. UCL School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacology


Dr. Sara Garfield

Research Pharmacist


Dirk Boll

President of Christie's in Europe, Middle East, Russia, and India


Yoshitomo Nara



Martin Creed



Anna Somers Cock

Founder Editor, The Art Newspaper


Dr. Cara Courage

Head of Tate Exchange, Tate Modern


Phyll Opoku-Gyimah

Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Trust, Co-Founder UK Black Pride


Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

Director, Castello di Rivoli Museo D'arte Contemporanea, Turin


Agnes Denes



Fady Jameel

Vice Chairman, Community Jameel

Screenshot 2024 02 05 at 17 52 45

Katy Wickremesinghe

Founder KTW London and the Wick


Tristram Hunt

Director, Victoria & Albert Museum


Iva Fattorini

Founder of Artocene, Founding Chair of Cleveland Clinic Global Arts and Medicine Institute


Marc Quinn

Activist Artist


Miquel Barceló