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Amsterdam, NH, 1013 AS

+31 (0)20 2629913

Beautiful Distress was founded on the concept that there is a great deal of mental suffering, that not enough people are aware of this and that not enough is done to stop it.

The Foundation uses art in an attempt to open up the world of psychiatry and battle the stigma attached to it.

Why art? Beautiful Distress believes that art is pre-eminently capable of articulating and depicting the human condition



By developing ideas and products in cooperation with artists/designers Beautiful Distress aims to tell the stories of psychiatry in a manner that is understandable and appealing to society in general, and to show and help lift the stigmas that the world of psychiatry has to deal with. Examples might include:

  • Organizing Art Projects for which art is created and shown to a broad (inter-) national audience
  • Stimulating the dialogue between Politics, Art and Psychiatry through exhibitions and presentations at conferences, lectures and internet projects
  • Creating (international) awareness campaigns that invite and stimulate the general public to think about the marginalization of psychiatric patients.
  • Further development and spreading, both nationally and internationally, Artists in residence-programs, thus enthusing artists to support and help promote the message of Beautiful Distress.

Below is a list and explanation of realized and current projects and projects that the Foundation wishes to organize in the coming years.


Artist in residence-project Kings County Hospital Center, Brooklyn, New York

Kings County Hospital

Kings County Hospital

In 2014 Beautiful Distress and Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York set up and started an artist-in-residency program at the hospital in Brooklyn. 2014-2016 is a pilot period in which four Dutch artists will (have) spent a period of three months each in the hospital and, inspired by the patients, the staff and the environment there, will have produced art that reflects their experiences.  After a thorough evaluation of the pilot period, a durable artist-in-residency will be established.

Annaleen Louwes, photographer, was the first artist that lived and worked in the hospital in the last quarter 2014. The work that she made in New York, was bundled in the beautiful book 'Black and white and (some) kind of blue'. The second artist was Aldo van den Broek who worked as artist-in-residence in Kings County Hospital during the second quarter of 2015. His work was presented in Amsterdam on July 7 2015 and was well received by a large audience. Aldo was succeeded by Christiaan Bastiaans, who returned from New York in December 2015. Some of the work the made during his residencywas shown in the exhibition 'Pharmacy Deux Milles', in gallery Looiersgracht 60 in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Deputy Mayor, Kasja Ollengren, payed a visit to Beautiful Distress in the Kings County Hospital in June 2015, and expressed her enthusiasm for the projects and the mission of our foundation. 

Artists in residence program with American artists in Altrecht, Den Dolder

by Rebecca Chamberlain

The first realized Beautiful Distress project is an international artists exchange in an Artists in residence program with American artists in Altrecht, Den Dolder, in cooperation with the Fifth Season Foundation.

Over the last 10 years this Foundation has organized (national) Artist in residence projects in the Dutch mental institution Willem Arntsz Hoeve, Den Dolder. (see

Rebecca Chamberlain and Guy Richards Smith’s exhibition: “A Home. Not a metaphor. The real thing”, held in the Lloyd Hotel’s Cultural Embassy in Amsterdam in August/September 2013 was the tangible result from Beautiful Distress’s first project. A sequel to this project has started September 2014 with a similar Artist in residence program with Dutch artists in the Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, New York.



UPCOMING projects

Art Exhibition and Congress, Amsterdam - 2017

Chistiaan Bastiaans, Brooklyn New York 2015

Chistiaan Bastiaans, Brooklyn New York 2015

2016 started well for Beautiful Distress. A grant was awarded to Beautiful Distress by the Art of Impact Fund to create a major interactive art exhibition and congress. The Art of Impact fund, an initiative from the Dutch Secretary of State for Culture, Education and Science Jet Bussemaker, stimulates one-off new art projects with a clear impact on a social issue or problem. The end result will be shown autumn 2017 in Amsterdam.  It is our intention to subsequently organize an exhibition in New York in 2018.

Beautiful Distress and The Fifth Season organize an exhibition of work by artists who spent a period as artist in residence in psychiatric hospital Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn, New York and/or Psychiatric Hospital Altrecht, Den Dolder, The Netherlands.  The artists show their impressions of mental illness and create awareness with the public on the limitations brought about by mental illness.

Simultaneously with the exhibition debates and discussions will be organized with representatives of all interest groups: patients and their families, policy makers in health care and psychiatry, government, artists and the public. The views and observations of the artists, resulting from their intense experiences with patients and staff, will be bundled in an” Artists manifesto”, which will be offered to all participants and form the starting point for the discussions.

The aim of the discussions is to come up with and formulate new ideas and recommendations to the policymakers in government and mental health care and the general public to fight prejudices and create more understanding and compassion for those suffering from mental disorders, and their immediate environment.

Impact of the Beautiful Distress Art Exhibition

  • Patients and their families find the courage to talk about their situation sooner. This helps soften their suffering and creates opportunities for improvement
  • The connection between art and psychiatry creates a new perspective on people with a psychiatric disorder and leads to more public understanding
  • Children's workshop: the idea of ental illness is discussed in workshops with children. Prejudices are discussed and contested
  • Through the observations of the artists new and different ideas and solutions can be formulated and offered to policy makers in healthcare and government

Beautiful Distress Foundation collaborates with The Fifth Season. This foundation has been organizing artist-in-residency projects for over fifteen years in psychiatric hospital Altrecht, den Dolder, the Netherlands. Together with The Fifth Season Beautiful Distress organized as its first project an international artists exchange in Den Dolder. For her planned exhibition project Beautiful Distress will collaborate with artists they invited to the artist-in-residency program at Kings County Hospital. In addition, Beautiful Distress and The Fifth Season, also have a choice of the work of the artists who in the last fifteen years spent a residency period in Altrecht, Den Dolder.

Comments from the Art of Impact committee
“…One of the major social issues of today is how to deal with those who are unable to cope with the demands of modern society excluded from society. Those suffering from severe mental illnesses for example; Beautiful Distress foundation tries to break the stigma attached to these people. They proved that in the past fifteen years’ active artist-in-residency program in psychiatric hospital Altrecht in Den Dolder and they prove it again with the last two years’ active artist-in-residency program in the mental health department at Kings County Hospital, New York. That the foundation now wants to capture the observations of the artists in a discussion with the public, experts and government, is a logical and important next step, which The Art of Impact therefore wholeheartedly supports.’’ 

Art Exhibition New York - 2018

Beautiful Distress, together with the Kings County Hospital Center, the Consulate in New York, and Residency Unlimited intend to organize an exhibition in 2018 at a prominent Brooklyn, NY museum, based on the above exhibition in Amsterdam. The exhibition will show the world of psychiatry based on works by artists who have participated in The Fifth Season and/or the Kings County project.

Pietà Project

An awareness campaign that combats the stigma of mental illness in an unorthodox and provocative way. Beautiful Distress will distribute posters throughout the city of Amsterdam which draw attention to mental illness. Through iconography using Michelangelo’s Pietà sculpture, Beautiful Distress confronts the public with the pain of the psychiatric patient. The photographs, made by a well-known photographer of famous actresses holding a psychiatric patient, aim to invite the viewer to empathize and identify both with the suffering as with the comforting figure. The posters will be placed on bus shelters, shops and buildings with a relationship to psychiatry. The format will be comparable to the ALS campaign recently held in the Netherlands. All posters will be published in a catalogue.