Recent research suggests art may prove a healing experience for those who produce it. Many hospitals today go one step further, and claim art as a healing experience for those who view it.

For this, the science is lacking.

Nonetheless, more than half of U.S. hospitals now collect original artwork, according to the Society for Arts in Healthcare.

2010 The Hero Series, Reconstruction No. 5, Cedar Sinai Medical Center Public Art Collection
2010 The Hero Series, Reconstruction No. 5, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Public Art Collection” credit=”Kellyann Gilson-Lyman / Flickr

Stanford Hospital and the Mayo Clinic are noted for their art collections. Visitors to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center walk past original art by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.

In 2011, for example, Cedars-Sinai reported that it had accepted 34 additions to its 4,000-piece collection of fine art, but declined to tell the I.R.S. value of the donations.

The purpose of the collection, according to Cedars-Sinai’s annual I.R.S. report: “To enhance patient care by creating a healing environment.”

Some research has shown that viewing representations of nature, such as photos or paintings, can ease patient stress. A study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing found that psychiatric patients exposed to realistic images of landscapes required less anxiety medication than those exposed to either abstract art or no art.

But 100Reporters could find no clinical evidence that displays of original fine art promote healing.

Though the art is often donated, nonprofit hospitals maintain, insure, conserve, frame and install it (occasionally through endowments for that purpose).

Some pieces end up at auction.

“We follow the I.R.S. rules,” Cedars-Sinai spokesman Sally Stewart said in an email. “The I.R.S. does not require us to report art donations. This is because we are custodians of the art for the benefit of our patients, their families, our staff, and future generations. We do not sell the art as a business and do not include it as an asset.”

At the Mayo Clinic, the policy is “to neither capitalize contributed works of art nor record the related contribution revenue,” according to its I.R.S. return.

Tourists from throughout the world may take Mayo’s 90-minute tours in groups of 25 to view such priceless treasures as a Rodin sculpture, Tiffany, Chihuly and Tagliapietra glass, Miró lithographs, and a mother of pearl box and book donated by Jordan’s King Hussein and Queen Noor. Even an employee cafeteria once had its own Alexander Calder mobile, although the clinic’s curator says the Calder is no longer there.

Tiny Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, completed in 2010, has acquired an abundance of island-related art. The collection is so overwhelming that, “Some will always be relatively — if not entirely — off limits for public viewing,” a local magazine reported. Yet the hospital has reported no art collections to the I.R.S. The hospital did not respond to a request for comment.

Rita Healy

Rita Healy

Rita Healy's first article for 100Reporters was published in October 2013 ( The experience formed the basis for her interest in producing this series.


  1. Rita,

    Although years have passed since the article, I am the artist, Kellyann Gilson Lyman –, whom produced the artwork, Reconstruction the hero series you showcase, Merci!.

    To concur with your point that hospitals benefit from being able to acquire art without tax ramifications is true.Yet the art world is hierarchical. Artist must play a game to produce & place art.

    If tax codes were to change, Artist should be able to deduct the value of artwork donated at their then market value, $50,000.00. The original reconstruction hero series, at 64 x 72, was produced when my brother was in intensive care for 41 days. He is a hero and survives today.

    My personal motto for producing public art is to pay forward positive art that inspires and perhaps encourages creativity. In order for artists to articulate their vision, they must painstakingly without question, place their art in locations that enable them to articulate their vision. Never asking permission. Even if the art was initially rejected by the board, then asked for the art to be reproduced at my expense to showcase my vision. I did just that, as, a hero is many things, the doctor, the patient, the artist & the audience are heroes.

    Reconstruction the hero series was originally produced for my brother, Bruno Francis Gilson whom underwent complete spinal reconstructive surgery at the Cedar Sinai medical center Spinal reconstructive institute by Dr. Pashman.

    The Marcia Weisman art collection At Cedars-Sinai medical center began the public art collection. Her intent was to have art inspire, the medical team, the nursing staff, the families and the patient. If you walk the halls of Cedar Sinai medical center and note the photography she donated, the artwork was from her personal collection as her husband lay ill.

    Art does heal. Dr.Pashman thought he was the hero. Bruno knew he was a hero. I merely felt the commitment to produce artwork that inspired wellness & healing. The bureaucracy can only change with those like you questioning the system, not the art producer. Power only changes when writers like you question the system, not the art. The boards acquiring art with tax exemption, ought to advocate tax benefits for artists donating.

    Art can create positive change. Artist that want their art in the public eye, just continue to make art & place it. Art is a cultural good.

    Best to you!

  2. Interesting. Are you saying that the hospitals acquire the art and then auction it off…some how avoiding taxes?

    • Mmm, more that healthcare costs might decrease slightly if hospitals stopped diddling around with their fine art collections.