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Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.

A woman walks into the red brick contemporary entrance of Pallant House Gallery.

Returning to the Gallery

[ Stories )

Back in March our world was turned upside down with our decision to close the Gallery due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then many of our staff have been working from home, unable to visit the Gallery we were used to seeing almost every day. Those who have been in the Gallery have found it to be a very different place.

As we prepare to reopen, we wanted to share some of the things that we missed, what we’ve reflected on and what we can’t wait to see again.

Sarah Norris [Head of Collections)

I miss the Gallery immeasurably; light filtering through the garden tree canopy; the water in Michael Andrews’ Thames Painting: The Estuary that seems to ebb and flow; standing in front of Freud’s Portrait of a Girl and marvelling afresh at his technique.

I am constantly reminded of Olivia Laing’s exploration on the art of being alone in The Lonely City and to paraphrase: “There are so many things that art can’t do. It can’t change the impact of coronavirus, it can’t find a cure or bring back those we have lost or mend arguments, but it has the capacity to infiltrate and enrich lives, to create intimacy and heal wounds”.

A view of a red brick Queen Anne era townhouse across a courtyard of plane trees in leaf.

Ashley John [Freelance Art Technician)

I’ve always understood I’m incredibly lucky to be able to work within the arts. My motivation for doing so is I believe art is essential and should be accessible to all. Now more than ever creativity is needed to problem solve, communicate and rebuild from a community level upward; not the other way around.

Hopefully the art world will emerge from lockdown realising just how precarious it is for some elements of their workforce. Paying artists appropriately and supporting freelance workers has never seemed more relevant.

Young Woman with sketchbook in the Gallery

Russell Le Page [Head of Development)

Is it important to support the arts at times like these? Yes. With responsibility for fundraising, I’m at risk of being told ‘You would say that wouldn’t you!’, but the arts is one of this country’s biggest industries, so supporting the arts supports the economy; but it also runs deeper than that. The best art holds a mirror up to our society and makes us think about our own place in it.

I’m looking forward to seeing how contemporary artists respond to the changed world and how art historians and curators look at the work of the past in the context of today. At a more fundamental level, the rush to creativity at home showed how vital it is to us to create. The arts offer comfort and solace.

View looking down a stairwell decorated with a colourful geometric mural as a woman dressed in black climbs the stairs.

Lothar Götz, Composition for a Staircase, 2016

Tess Viljoen [Marketing Manager)

It has long been an ambition of the Gallery to find ways to connect with people who might not be able to come to us, and to share our art and knowledge beyond geographic or physical boundaries.

Lockdown has given us the time and focus to begin to make that ambition a reality and evolve our website to become a resource and knowledge hub for anyone interested in modern British art. It has been a moment to innovate and work with the small positives in an otherwise devastating situation.

A loggia with glass panelled wall, containing a white Corbusier armchair, a pine and tile coffee table and carved wooden artwork.

Liz Walker [Friend and Guide)

I live near the Gallery, so I tend to visit frequently and I have the good luck to be a room steward and guide. In fact, I was going to be involved with the Barnett Freedman exhibition tours, and discovering his sheer zest for life had been a delight.

When the Gallery closed, all that was gone. But it wasn’t simply that; it was all the people who make up the Gallery; staff, volunteers, Friends, groups, visitors – familiar faces, interesting people – they would be gone too.

Of course we’ve been lucky during closure. There has been a steady stream of articles, news and views via the internet, all designed to keep us involved with the Gallery and each other. But we now realise that while closing was relatively straightforward, re-opening is likely to be much more complex.

Photograph showing a female tour guide discussing a painting in front of a group of people

Deborah Blows [Head of Visitor Services)

While the Gallery has been closed, I’ve had the privilege to walk round the Barnett Freedman exhibition alone, like a personal Private View, enjoying the vibrant colours of his art and fascination with the circus.

Alongside are works by more of my favourites, Ravilious and Bawden. It’s helped me reflect, in these strange times, on the importance of wellbeing and access to the arts. How it has so much resonance in people’s lives and the importance of your own interpretation and how it makes you feel. It is important to me to be part of Pallant House Gallery and all that it stands for.

View of a gallery divided into sections. The first section has bright yellow walls and two posters hanging on the wall depicting a clown and an actress. Further sections of the gallery can just be seen beyond the yellow wall, their walls painted blue and beyond that, white. On the left hand side nearest the viewer is a display table filled with ephemera.

Beth Funnell [Friend and Guide)

I miss the Gallery in many ways. I’ve been involved for 18 years – from just before it closed for the building of the Wilson wing. Then the Friends met regularly and the events continued. This time it’s harder to maintain that camaraderie which exists amongst the guides. But the Gallery has done sterling work to keep us feeling involved, sending emails, links to blogs and other online items of interest.

I’m looking forward to the day when the Gallery is open and guides can meet up and wander round the galleries re-acquainting ourselves with our wonderful collection. Thomas Merton said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time”. For me that sums up what we need right now.

Three volunteers stand in a circle laughing next to a stone sculpture by Barbara Hepworth

Louise Weller [Head of Exhibitions)

As the doors were closing in March, I took a final look at one of my favourite paintings Thames Painting: The Estuary by Michael Andrews. I have always found the confluences of shifting elements within this work particularly moving. I look at this work every time I visit the gallery and throughout this period it has given me both pause for thought and hope for the future.

Painting by Michael Andrews depicting a large sweeping view of the Thames estuary, lot of browns, figures with a rowing boat centre left.

This is an edited version of an article taken from Pallant House Gallery Magazine, No 51. Available for purchase from the Welcome Desk and free for Friends.

Visit our Reopening the Gallery page and discover everything you need to know about our reopening – booking your tickets, planning your visit, details of our new safety measures and FAQ’s.

To find out more about how to join our Friends and the benefits membership brings, visit our Friends pages.