Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information, including hours

Simone Mangos: DAMAGED

– thalidomide victims in medical documents

Simone Mangos, Case 5 2012, oil on canvas 150 × 100cm; Janette and record player 2010, oil on canvas 120 × 80cm; Case 47 2012, oil on canvas 150 × 100cm. All images courtesy the artist © Simone Mangos and VB Bild Kunst r.V.

DAMAGED – thalidomide victims in medical documents is an exhibition of new work by Simone Mangos which focuses on the representation and perception of deformity, with specific reference to the tragedy surrounding the pharmaceutical drug thalidomide. Her work comprises a series of oil paintings based on medical photographs and documents. The photography is mostly from the 1960s and ’70s and is focused on the documentation of persons injured by this medication. The images have been assembled from archives, medical books, period journals and, in some cases, directly from survivors.

Mangos’ paintings attempt to accurately reproduce the anatomy of the subject, interventions of other people into the frame and the photographic qualities of the images – almost always out of focus, flat, burnt-out and poorly composed – in order to interrogate their implied objectivity. Through this process of reproduction, the way in which the original photographs betray a subjugating and even cruel attitude towards the subject is amplified.

“In the history of painting, deformed people are typically represented as monsters, criminals and objects of contempt. Medical photography, at least up until the late 1980s, has mostly not been any different,” observes Simone Mangos. “It is the individual victim who has to strip, have their body prodded, probed, stared at, photographed, discussed and decided upon as if they were not even present.”

An Australian now based in Berlin, Mangos has been exhibiting internationally for more than two decades and is best known for her installations and sculptures made from found materials. This is the initial exhibition of paintings by the artist, addressing thalidomide and surrounding issues. The exhibition has been developed from years of research across medical, judicial and historical fields of enquiry, as well as extended dialogues with individual ‘medical survivors’.

AGNSW Contemporary Projects are supported by Andrew Cameron.

Proudly supported by
Contemporary art with UBS

On view
2 Jun – 5 Aug 2012
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney


Media contact

Susanne Briggs
Tel 02 9225 1791
Mob 0412 268 320