New exhibition focuses on 20 years of HIV

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A solo exhibition coming to London next month will explore the changing perception of HIV in the capital over the last 20 years.

Rebound will be shown at Wellcome Collection, a new cultural venue on London’s Euston Road, between 11 and 28 October.

It will display the sketches and diary notes of artist Paul Ryan.

The materials provide a compelling insight into the HIV epidemic in London from 1987, when the first clear information about the disease emerged, to 2007, by which time successful treatments have been established.

The title of the exhibition, Rebound, refers to the experience of declining health and hopes of those affected by HIV, which hit a low point in the mid 1990s before ‘rebounding’ to restored health for many and optimism for the future.

A recurrent theme of the exhibition is ‘intimacy’ and the barriers that HIV carriers face when disclosing their status.

The 20-year period will be represented by a wall-mounted, linear, chronological display of notebooks.

Larger drawings will sit alongside a specially-commissioned wall drawing.

“The sketchbooks have become a bit of a habit, but hopefully a useful one,” explains Paul Ryan.

“They map out 25 years of my adult life in a way my mind couldn’t, and help to jog my inner memories too.

“Exhibiting them in Wellcome Collection frames these personal accounts in a medical context, rather than a conventional art gallery, picking out the themes of HIV in London.

“It is always important to remember the connection between how illness and medicine make us ‘feel’, as much as the ‘look’ of the science.”

Clare Matterson, Wellcome Trust Director of Medicine, Society and History, said:

Rebound looks closely at the shift from pessimism to optimism for the treatment of HIV patients. The sketchbooks show a clear narrative on how people face up to the realities of their status, and the reactions for those around them.”

AIDS and HIV have affected Londoners in changing ways over the last two decades. The numbers of people diagnosed continues to rise.

Between 2001 and 2005, new HIV diagnosis increased by 14 per cent.

In 2005, the number of people accessing NHS care for HIV who lived in London was 22 236, which was a 12 per cent increase from 2004.

Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of Terrence Higgins Trust said:

“So much has happened since the start of the HIV epidemic 25 years ago.

“Remembering the people who have played their part in this story so far is vitally important. London has been the epicentre of the UK’s epidemic, and this exhibition will provide a fascinating personal perspective.”

To coincide with Paul Ryan’s solo exhibition at Wellcome Collection, the artist will be talking with Dr Jane Anderson (Director for the Centre for the Study of Sexual Health and HIV at Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust) and Angelina Namiba, Policy and Involvement Manager at Positively Women, about how lives, treatments and feelings have changed over the last two decades.

Together with the audience they will not only recall these changes but also mark out what HIV means in London today, and what it might mean in the future.

Rebound Talk will be held on Saturday 27 October, 15:00-16:30.

To book this free event, please visit or call 020 7611 2222.

Rebound will exhibit at Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London from 11-28 October.

Access to the gallery is free.

The open times are Tuesdays, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays 10:00 – 18:00, Thursdays 10:00 – 22:00 and Sundays 11:00 – 18:00.

The Wellcome Library, Europe’s leading resource for the study of history of medicine, has been collecting ephemera and pamphlets about AIDS / HIV since 1989.

The collection contains a wide selection of, often very unusual, material promoting safer sex and condom use as well as items documenting support groups, centres and initiatives and educational material aimed at the general public explaining what AIDS / HIV is.

Additionally there are 166 folders of source material that was used for the monthly AIDS Newsletter (1985-96) documenting everything from tabloid hysteria to conferences for the medical profession.

The Library contains the largest UK collection of AIDS campaign posters from throughout the world.

The 3,000 posters show how public understanding of the epidemic has changed from the early days to the present.

Since opening to the public on 21 June this year, Wellcome Collection has attracted 70,000 visitors through its doors.

Wellcome Collection, the Wellcome Trust’s former headquarters on London’s Euston Road, has been redesigned by Hopkins Architects to become a new £30m venue.

Free to all, Wellcome Collection explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future.

Wellcome Collection houses over 1,2000 exhibits across three galleries and uses contemporary and experimental techniques to challenge and inspire visitors to consider issues of science, health and human identity through the ages.

Wellcome Collection also includes a ‘Forum’ for public events, the world famous Wellcome Library, a conference centre, café, and bookshop. The building also houses the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL.