Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College

The Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care at King’s College, London was the first international institute to focus specifically on palliative care research, dissemination and teaching.

The Contemporary Art Society, together with the Institute, appointed two artists, Tania Kovats and Caroline McCarthy, to produce permanent commissions for the new building, which opened in 2010.

Tania Kovats developed an installation for the full-height atrium.  A glade of cast birch trees are suspended vertically through the four-storey building, accompanied by the subtle sound of a blackbird’s call.  The work symbolises the reality of being at the point of life where the small details of living come into sharp focus, where the call of a bird or the surface of tree bark is something precious enough to be noticed or cherished.

Caroline McCarthy’s work is in direct response to the legacy of Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of the modern hospice movement.  For Light for Cicely, individuals associated with or inspired by the work of Cicely Saunders were invited to send a photograph of an illuminated domestic lamp in their own home.  Displayed throughout the building and on a dedicated website ( ), the works represent the idea of a constellation, bringing light and also something of every contributor’s home into the building.

McCarthy also worked with the Institute’s Archive to create a display of selected historical materials, giving visual testimony to Cicely’s enduring legacy.