Pallant House Gallery, 9 North Pallant, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 1TJ. Tel. +44 (0)1243 774557. Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 12.30pm to 5.00pm, Sundays and Bank Holidays 12.30pm - 4pm
Closed. Tel. +44 (0)1243 774557. E-mail: pallant@pallan „
The Pallant House Gallery proudly proclaims itself to be "the home of Modern Art in the South", but I have admit that I only visited very recently. The reason for my visit was to see the very well reviewed touring exhibition of the work of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. This was the only UK showing of this exhibition, bringing together the work of the passionate Mexican couple and I would have travelled a long way to see it. As it was, I was pleased that I only had a two hour drive to Chichester - a lively and historic cathedral town near to Portsmouth.
The Pallant House Gallery turned out to be a real find; small, unique and containing some real artistic gems of sculpture as well as painting, it sits in the middle of the lovely old town of Chichester and was a real pleasure to visit. An eclectic collection based on generous donations from art lovers around the country, its beautiful modern galleries contain work by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Cezanne, Severini and many more.
~~The Gallery: architecture and history~~
This art gallery is architecturally one of the most unusual that I have visited. To the left, and containing the main entrance, is a very modern building which caused a lot of controversy when it was first erected. Standing in a bold and uncompromising cube in the row of imposing Victorian buildings, the featureless brick façade was never going to popular with the locals, but is in fact an additional, RIBA award winning wing which has been attached onto the original gallery. The original wing is a Queen Anne town house, dating from 1712 and is a beautiful building which was cutting edge in its time. I personally love the fact that the new wing is also cutting edge and think the combination of old and new architecture marries very well.
The new wing was opened in 2006 and created a gallery in two halves; one modern light and angular, the other small, dark and full of period features. The two halves provide seventeen gallery rooms, as well as a bookshop, education studio, restaurant, library and visitor facilities.
~~ Visiting ~~
Even though Pallant House holds an inspiring collection of art by artists such as Ben Nicholson, Patrick Caulfield and Eduardo Paolozzi, it still manages to retain the feel of a small and intimate gallery. Situated right in the town centre, it is tucked away, almost unnoticeable, down a little side street. My visit was on a busy summer Saturday, and the gallery was pleasantly busy but not at all crowded. There were no queues and none of the jostling that I sometimes experience in London galleries.
The large entrance lobby is in the modern wing; walking in there is an immediate feel of light and space, with huge windows providing natural light and white walls and ceilings giving a Mediterranean feel. There were no queues at all for tickets - I paid £7.50 for entrance, plus an extra £2.75 for the Kahlo / Rivera exhibition. Prices are not cheap, but it is worth noting that Tuesday is half price day for all admissions, and Thursday evenings are free from 5pm to 8pm.
To the left is a small bookshop, packed with books and posters about the art that the gallery holds. Although the bookshop was small, it was not crowded and I was very impressed by the range of books.
We headed straight to the first floor to see the Kahlo / Rivera exhibition and found that even for this high profile tour the queues were non existent. The first floor is just as cool and modern as the ground floor, using the natural light from the large windows, glass doors and subtle lighting to create an airy space which houses the modern works of art perfectly. This floor has an intimate feel - art works are displayed in small rooms to the right and left of the large corridor and the visitor can wander in and out freely. We saw a collection of photography from Mexico by another husband and wife - Manuel and Lola Álvarez Bravo, which complemented the Kahlo/Rivera exhibition perfectly, especially as it contained a portrait of Diego Rivera himself. I particularly liked the stairwell exhibition of photographs by Frida Kahlo's father, Guillerma Kahlo, which as a Frida fan, added to my knowledge about her life and family and seemed like a very thoughtful addition to the touring exhibition.
Although each room has a theme (pop art, still life, urban images), the collections still seemed to be themed around the donators rather than art movements, which probably reflects the history of the gallery which relied heavily on some very generous donors to build the collections. I particularly liked the collection donated by Colin St. John Wilson, which includes several memorable paintings from British Pop art as well as a Lucien Freud
It could be easy to miss the stairs to the older part of the gallery, and I did see several people just walk right past the small staircase and return downstairs. Looking rather like stairs to a staff area, and not well signposted at all, these stairs lead rather mysteriously to the old part of the gallery. The old Queen Anne House is the original Pallant House Gallery building and still houses significant collections; nine rooms whose dark and sombre atmosphere contrast unfavourably with the modern look of the new wing. This old house is home to furniture, sculpture and painting. One of the upstairs rooms is decorated as a historical bedroom, complete with a four poster and oil painted portraits on all the walls. While some of the art work here such The Geoffrey Freeman Collection (one of the world's outstanding collections of 18th century porcelain) did not appeal to me as much, I enjoyed seeing the original features, fireplaces, wooden panelling, and staircases.
The permanent collection contains some wonderful artwork, but has a slightly disorganised sense about it, perhaps because the collection itself is the result of several generous benefactors donating their collections, rather than a planned purchase of artwork to fit a themed agenda. This is most obvious in the Reserve Collection in Room 10 - a large room which contains all of the work that does not easily fit into the other exhibition rooms, room 10 acts as a store room and exhibition room combined, allowing visitors to see all of the work available without a curator giving it any structure or theme.
Although there is no coffee shop inside the gallery, I was pleased to see that there was a very attractive restaurant with both indoor and courtyard seating. This is a very grown up and sophisticated eatery; 'The Field and Fork'. Definitely not somewhere that you would take small children, it was filled with elegant diners who may or may not have been gallery visitors - as the restaurant is open to the general public.
Unfortunately, this service in this restaurant was less than brilliant and the food was on the expensive side. Looking for the cheapest thing on the lunchtime menu, I came across the Light Lunch section and ordered the smoked salmon. Although this was £8.50, I was prepared to splash out for a lovely lunch in the gallery. The 'light lunch' turned out to be very light - just a plate of smoked salmon with no bread. This, together with the lack of any cutlery or courtesy, made me hand the plate straight back to the waitress - an extra £3 for bread to go with my salmon seemed a step too far.
Other, more substantial meals came in at around £12, which I declined - but I did enjoy a good cup of coffee as I sat in the sun filled courtyard .
~~Facilities and service ~~
For a gallery which prides itself on a great reputation, I was disappointed with the basic level of care that it provided for visitors. I called the reception before I visited, trying to get an idea of what I could see and how long to spend; the lady on the phone was rather patronising and completely unhelpful, just directing me to the website or suggesting that I come and look for myself - not a very encouraging or welcoming conversation!
Toilets were located on the ground floor. I visited twice; the first time they were dirty and there was no loo paper. Just before I left I visited once again, a good three hours later - only to find them exactly in the same condition, paperless and dirty. Obviously the basic checks were not being carried out.
Baby changing facilities are available with two individual disabled toilets.
The large lift was in good working order, and provided access to the upper floors for the disabled. This is essential as the majority of the galleries are on the first and second floors.
~~ Conclusion ~~
I loved the Pallant House Gallery, both for the mixture of art on display as well as the well designed building itself, in which it was a pleasure to spend a couple of hours.
Unfortunately the attitude of every member of staff that I came across made my visit less than perfect - from the unhelpful receptionist, to the uncaring waitress, to the cashiers in the bookshop who chattered on about their social lives and ignored customers.
I am still giving the gallery 5 stars for having a delightful building and an amazing collection, all in a great location. However the managment really need to look at their staff training.
Pallant House Gallery has won numerous awards, including the Museum of the Year, Gulbenkian Prize for museums and galleries in 2007; the Royal Institute of British Architects Award 2007; the
Sussex Heritage Award 2007; and the Best Design for Accessibility, DisabledGo Awards 2007
~~ Opening Hours ~~
Tuesday to Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Thursday: 10am - 8pm
Sunday/Bank Holidays: 11am - 5pm
9 North Pallant
Housing one of the finest collections of modern British art outside of London, Pallant House Gallery is situated in Chichester, close to the cathedral and main shopping centre. Coming myself from a larger city in which I am sure it would be difficult to see the work of a major artist, I was quite astounded to find the Pallant Gallery tucked away in a little side street, yet boasting the ownership of works by Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield, Eduardo Paolozzi and Frank Auerbach amongst others.
This is a gem of a gallery, and it is no surprise that it was awarded the Gulbenkian Prize for Museum of the Year in 2007. At the time of my visit the gallery was holding a temporary exhibition (running until 8th June 2008) centring around Colin St John Wilson, a collector and architect, and another entitled The Artist at Work: William Coldstream and Michael Andrews, which finishes on 11th May, 2008. The connection between the two is that Colin St John Wilson wrote a book based on his experiences of sitting for a portrait by both Coldstream and Andrews. Wilson, who died in May 2007, was essentially an architect, and it was fascinating to see his plans and model for the first phase of the British Library, a building that I have not yet visited but certainly wish to, having seen this exhibition. One large photograph of the interior of the library could be seen from two rooms away through two open doorways; I must have toured a good few art galleries in my life, but I have never seen anything quite so cleverly thought out as this. Equally striking were sketches and a colour photograph of a library that Wilson designed for a primary school in memory of his father. Its design is based on that of a mausoleum, and whilst this may sound somewhat morbid, what first caught my eye were the vivid primary colours used in the interior which made me feel that it must be a pleasure to spend time in this library, especially for young children.
I particularly liked the feel of the gallery in terms of its small scale that gave an intimacy with the works of art. The individual rooms have quite low ceilings, and several of them are no bigger than the rooms of a house. There were quite a few visitors, yet I never had to wait long to be able to stand right in front of a particular work and enjoy the details of it without being jostled by other viewers. In one room there was even a small window, allowing not only a view on the outside world but also the opportunity to see a piece of sculpture and a painting with the natural light of day falling upon them, as you might if you owned them yourself. It was also fascinating to see sketches, plans and preliminary drawings alongside finished works of art, a feature that is usually missing from grander galleries such as the Tate.
The modern art is displayed on Level 2, but from Level 1 there is access to the Historic Collections in the older part of the building. Somehow an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture has found its way into one of the fireplaces here, so you never know quite what to expect. Those who prefer traditional art to contemporary sculpture and painting will feel more at home in this part of the gallery.
Later this year, from 21st June until 12th October 2008, the work of Colin Self will feature in an exhibition entitled Art in the Nuclear Age. This will be the first major retrospective of the British exponent of the Pop Art movement. On 25th October 2008, an exhibition dedicated to the work of Eileen Agar will open, running until 15th March 2009. Her paintings show the influence of Cubism, abstraction and British Romanticism.
Tours of the gallery are offered, and one was in fact in progress as we entered Room 10 that Saturday afternoon. This room focusses mainly on Pop Art by artists such as Peter Blake (designer of the sleeve for the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper album) and Richard Hamilton. I have never been a fan of guided tours, and I was a little dismayed to hear the guide refer to Mick Jagger as 'one of the Beatles', but I'm sure this was a slip of the tongue and that she genuinely knows her stuff! There is no extra cost for guided tours, and they take place on Thursdays at 6pm and on Saturdays at 3pm. On the final Saturday of each month, a British Sign Language Interpreter accompanies the tour. There are also occasional tours of temporary exhibitions on weekdays; there is an extra charge for these, ranging from £4 to £6 (with a discount for students), but either morning coffee, afternoon tea or a glass of wine in the case of an evening tour are included in the price.
Talks take place on Thursday evenings at a cost of £7 (half price for students) which includes a glass of wine. These are given by distinguished speakers such as art historian and author William Feaver and M J Long, partner and wife of Colin St John Wilson. There is also a talk by a gallery guide at 11am on the last Wednesday of the month on an individual work of art; attendance for this is free once you have a ticket for the gallery. A workshop follows the Wednesday morning talk, during which participants are encourage to 'respond creatively to works under guidance from an experienced arts educator'. ( A quote from the gallery's leaflet.) It costs £6 to take part in each workshop and you have to bring your own art materials.
Another opportunity to develop your artistic skills if you already have some experience is offered on some (but not all) Sunday afternoons in the Art Masterclass starting at either 1pm or 2pm and running until 4pm. These classes are given by artists experienced in various fields such as printmaking, life drawing, experimental drawing, watercolour or acrylic painting. Such classes must be booked well in advance. The current fee is £9, and there may be an additional charge for materials and, in the case of life drawing, for the model. You do, however, need to bring your own basic materials.
Children are not ignored by the gallery, although I didn't see signs of any during my visit that Saturday afternoon. Workshops for children can be booked in advance for Saturday mornings from 10am until 12noon; the cost is £6 per child (next to nothing compared to costs for private tuition). Each workshop is aimed at a particular age group, for instance 5-8 year olds, 9-12 year olds or 13-16 year olds, so you need to check on suitability for your child when you book. Themes range from flowers and pods for the youngest age group through forms in nature or a miniature art gallery for 9-12s to buildings in mixed media or drawing the gallery itself for the teenagers. Pallant House does offer some free workshops led by artists during school holiday periods for children between 5 and 16; each lasts for two hours and you can choose between a morning or an afternoon workshop. Activities might take the form of kite making or Easter fun topics, depending on the time of year. There is no need to book in advance for these workshops, but places are limited so it is advisable to attend early for a 10am start or 1pm for the afternoon session.
The bookshop, on your immediate left as you enter the gallery, has an excellent stock of art books, prints, greetings cards, postcards and one or two art materials as well as a small number of books on the local area. It was here that my brother found me a copy of Tom Phillips' 'A Humument', the subject of a previous review of mine.
Also on the ground floor is the Pallant Restaurant, which I took a look at but did not have time to visit. You can stop here just for a drink and a piece of cake, or choose to have lunch or a three-course meal. Fresh local produce is used by the chefs. The restaurant has a separate entrance on East Pallant, so presumably you could visit it without paying for a gallery ticket. More information is given at the restaurant's own website, the address of which is www.thepallantrestaurant.com
The admission fee for Pallant House Gallery is a fairly hefty £6.50, but this does cover any special exhibitions in addition to the permanent collection. You can, however, enter for half price all day Tuesday or on Thursday evenings between 5 and 8 pm. There are discounts for children, students and Art Fund members, whilst the unemployed do not have to pay. A family ticket costs £15 for two adults and up to four children.
The gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am until 5pm, with an extension on Thursday until 8pm; Sunday and Bank Holiday opening hours are from 12.30pm to 5pm. Pallant House is closed on Mondays. The main collection and exhibitions are displayed in the upper levels, but there is a lift as well as stairs.
I would encourage anyone with an interest in art who is either visiting the area or who lives near enough to make a day trip to Chichester to visit Pallant House Gallery. It is only about half a mile from the railway station, and even closer to the bus station, for those like myself travelling by public transport. Parking is available on South Pallant just a few yards away. Visiting this gallery almost makes me wish I could move to Chichester: they have the wonderful Festival Theatre as well. I also discovered that Chichester Cinema has occasional screenings of art films such as 'Sketches of Frank Gehry' and 'Pop goes the Easel'. A tiny city that explodes with culture.
Pallant House Gallery
9 North Pallant
Tel. 01243 774557
Pallant House in Chichester is well known by Chichester’s inhabitants and art students, and a rare gem of a gallery in the Hampshire/West Sussex area. It is hidden away in the small winding back streets of central Chichester, which are artifacts in themselves, by West Street in the shopping area. Surrounded by beautiful grande Victorian (and previous) houses, Pallant House blend in well, but is still distinguishable, with steps, pillars and sculptures, all of which add to the general atmosphere of the place. For West Sussex students admission is free, as for children, but other students and adults admission can be between £2 and £5 depending on the exhibition. I am not sure how accessible it is for the disabled, but the steps leading up to the building could cause a problem. On entering the house the entrance area seems a little dull and ancient, if antique furniture, sculpture and art is not your primary interest. However, Pallant House usually offers an interesting combination of modern and contemporary art, along with its original furniture. In the main house area, the ground and first floors, artwork and artifacts from Victorian times to early 20th Century are circulated - this exhibition changes slightly each time I visit. (My knowledge of antiques and history is limited so I apologise for inaccuracies). The formerDean of Chichester Cathedral which itself holds some amazing artwork), Dean Hussey, held close links with many artists whom custom designed work for the Cathedral (Chagall, Sutherland) and donated work to Pallant House. Graham Sutherland and John Piper feature heavily in the upstairs rooms. All of the rooms in the house, excepting the main exhibition room, are displayed in their original state, with its original furniture, such as beds, tables, and the like. This in itself is fascinating because you get to feel like you are in a period drama. I do not usually find such things interesting, but a lot of the crockery,
pottery, and toys are beautifully and skilfully made. Hussey’s collection is quite mixed, and may seem a little badly matched, but individually the artwork is well worth seeing. The actual gallery space changes constantly, and has been know to house a lot of important modern art and explores different techniques within the subjects. At present Pallant House is holding an exhibition called ‘Less is more’. At first this struck me as being quite strange. It comprises of a strange mix of pieces from Patrick Caulfield to Peter Blake, which may at first seem normal, but in this context is not. Caulfields’ paintings (‘Portrait of Juan Gris, for example) use simple black lines and flat primary colours with simple shapes. This, I assume, comes under the ‘less is more’ idea. Peter Blake’s painterly Pop art, in this case a portrait of early Beatles (Blake did the cover sleeve for ‘Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club’) seems a little removed from the idea, and almost as if Pallant House is saying, ‘Look we have a Peter Blake Beatles painting -woohoo’. Presmuably they know something about this painting that I don’t (admittedly I know very little). However, his concoction of miniature figurines of different characters from (children’s) popular culture (from a plastic Incredible Hulk to ceramic caricatured Marilyn Monroe), seemed a little more in keeping with the theme. I have never seen this form of pop art before, but I would be interested to know other peoples opinions on it. The room also contained maquettes and prototypes of sculptures by various other artists. Obviously pointing to the validity of the workings of a piece of art compared to the final piece, but it almost felt like they couldn’t really be bothered to get the originals in, or just couldn’t fit them into the room. In a similar manner the centre of the room was filled with cabinets which were look-i
n doll sized gallery spaces and a gallery plan of Pallant House. These contained tiny but proper versions of art work by artists from Caulfield to Barbara Hepworth. Again I did wonder what was wrong with putting the originals in, but a theme is a theme, and these miniature paintings were lovely. Next to these a wall was filled with work by Paul Huxley. A giant painting of brighly coloured geometric patterns and black lines, almost an abstract Patrick Caulfield painting, filled one area. Next to these were rows of A6 sized sketches of the workings that led up to the final piece. I enjoyed seeing his thought process behind the work, partly because so much of my university course is concerned with building up background work. In a way these added to the theme, but there was definitely an undertone of the importance of prior thought into art work, which perhaps is not always emphasised and not fully understood by all visitors. The overall impression that this exhibition left on me was one of the excitement behind doing art. It’s easy enough to splash some paint on a canvas, but less so to develop work effectively and create paintings that are aesthetically effective and substantial in their meanings. The whole gallery and, indeed, house seem a little confused in their uniformity, but I found the whole experience charming and interesting. Pallant House is definitely worth visiting, if just for a view of different artifacts working as one in a relatively small area. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, but it is best to ring them to find out about exhibitions and opening times.