The museum has occupied its present home since 1936. The building originally formed the central portion of Bethlem (or ‘Bedlam’ as it was known) Royal Hospital for psychiatric patients. The east and west wings were demolished in the early 1930s to make room for the park that now surrounds the Museum.
The collection is rich in modern British painting. Since the collection began it has focused on artworks created by artists responding to events as they unfold. It is rich in modern British painting including works by Augustus John, Sir Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash and Wyndham Lewis.
The contemporary collection includes Turner Prize winner, Steve McQueen, and the duo, Langlands and Bell. The galleries are also home to a collection of work from Northern Ireland with pieces by Willie Doherty, Jack Milroy and Victor Sloan. Until December 2010 the museum is exhibiting Breakthrough, a major re-hang of the Imperial War Museum’s collection of British art.
Once past the busy ground floor display of military machinery, the upper galleries come as a welcome respite. Tucked behind the main gallery space is the Hall of Remembrance, well worth a visit to view the epic works by Paul Nash, John Singer Sargent, Henry Lamb and Stanley Spencer.