Found – The Foundling Museum

Found is an exhibition of work by over 70 artists curated by Cornelia Parker. Cornelia Parker has been the museums Hogarth fellow and this exhibition is the culmination of this.

Each artist has responded to the theme of found inspired by the tokens that were left with babies at the foundling hospital by their mothers. The artists have used items that they themselves have found or work that already responds to the title.

Found items can retain a poignancy for the finder or viewer. For each person visiting the exhibition exhibits will each have a different strength of context and I guess this is true of other exhibitions but with this it was just more apparent. At first glimpse some of the exhibits seem mundane and uninspiring but delve deeper the thoughts and ideas of the artists draw out the meanings and give a fantastic insight into an artists thinking.

Several items stood out for me:

John Smith – Dad’s Stick

A stick used as a paint stirrer by his father for years has been cut to reveal the layers and layers of paint that have a personal resonance to the artist with the recognition of each of the layers as colours in the family home.


Antony Gormley – Iron Baby

Particularly poignant within this setting, this small cast from his six-day old daughter is set alone on a floor curled inwards and abandoned as many children were when the museum was a hospital.


Ron Arad – String and paper

When the artist had newly arrived in London he came across this chain of pawnbrokers coupons skewered on a length of string. Each is a record of an item left when times became hard, and a majority of them record GWR (Gold Wedding Ring)!



The permanent Foundling museum

The Found exhibition above, was interspersed within the permanent display. A poignant historical exhibition of how the foundling museum supported abandoned children from 1739. When children were abandoned or left at the hospital the mothers were asked to…

‘affix on each child some particular writing, or other distinguishing mark or token, so that the children may be known thereafter if necessary’.

These tokens now make up a collection of over 18,000 items all with such a sad poignancy, research is ongoing into the meaning and stories behind some of these items. However sadly most of these tokens are now orphans themselves, because at some point during the mid 19th century they were seperated from any details of the baby they were supposed to be referenced with.



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