By Kathryn Romeyn
There’s no mood booster quite like a Takashi Murakami artwork. And RxART founder and president Diane Brown knows it. Her organization, which commissions top contemporary artists to dream up site-specific installations for hospitals across the U.S., looked to the contemporary Japanese icon beloved for his cheerful, vibrant aesthetic for its latest project.
Washington, D.C.’s Children’s National Hospital is the beneficiary of RxART’s latest psychedelic transformation. Murakami was asked to make over the CT/PET Scan Suite, and did so with paradigmatic exuberance. The result, just revealed, is a rainbow-hued landscape of smiling flowers against a blue sky studded with puffy white clouds, wrapping the gargantuan CT/PET scanner. A patterned wall covering bursting with Technicolor blooms now envelops the room.
“A CT or PET scan can be a frightening experience for anyone, and certainly for a child,” says Brown of the foreboding and intimidating white white mass that typically sits in sterile hospital suites. Now, however, “this room is pure joy,” she says, adding that she’s hugely appreciative of Murakami and his company and gallery Kaikai Kiki for the “brilliant transformation.”
The uplifting motif is designed to reduce fear and alleviate anxiety as young patients receive their scans. Brown actually founded RxART in 2000 after having her own distressing experience during a CT scan, so she knows of what she speaks. Projects spanning murals, wall-covering designs, CT scan wraps, privacy curtains, and hospital-grade pajamas—53 thus far, in 36 hospitals—are all carried out at no cost to the facilities, and each artist receives an honorarium.
The work of Murakami, whose paintings, sculptures and films draw from anime, pop culture, history, and Japanese fine art, seemed a clear fit for the children’s hospital setting. Says Dr. Dorothy Bulas, chief, division of diagnostic imaging and radiology, “The CT suite can be such an imposing environment, and some beauty and levity is so helpful.” When children must have scans, “the beauty of this RxART project provides more reassurance that they are in good hands.”