Chichester’s Oxmarket Gallery reopens

Chichester’s Oxmarket Gallery unveiled a remarkable transformation this week as it reopened post-lockdown.

Oxmarket chairman Sophie Hull
Oxmarket chairman Sophie Hull

The gallery has been extensively refurbished to create a vastly improved experience for artists and visitors alike, with a raft of added comforts and facilities alongside rethought and redeveloped exhibition spaces. It is the biggest moment for the city-centre gallery since it first opened to the public back in the 1970s. And importantly, it will help end the gallery’s “hidden gem” status – a key ambition for Oxmarket chairman Sophie Hull who has masterminded the works.

“I have every confidence. It is just so amazing now. It is just wonderful. When you see it, you will just think ‘Of course!’ and with the signage outside nobody will walk past without seeing what a fantastic gallery it now is. You won’t be able to walk past without wanting to go inside.”

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Substantial work at the gallery – improving the entrance area, the flow of the gallery and its heating amongst other things – was completed on time for Tuesday’s reopening.

And Sophie is delighted that the works have been recorded as they happened by video-maker Evie Brydon: “Evie joined us every week for the site meetings where we would run through the work in progress where we were working out what needed to happen and revisiting things as they came up, all culminating in the final product. It has been so interesting to record how a project like this has evolved.

“We have got two versions of the video. Social media is increasingly important for us to attract new artists and visitors and we have done a three-minute version for social media, and we have got a five-minute version for the website.

“I think it would be very easy to forget all the work that went into it all. Plus it is good to have a record of what a pleasure it was to work with the contractors. It was a very collaborative project that we all thoroughly enjoyed. This was a project where we were all aligned on its success and that was its beauty. There weren’t any problems. We discovered a leak in the roof and that just wasn’t an issue. It was dealt with. We just got on with it and it was great.”

And now everyone can enjoy the benefits: “When you see it, you will just think ‘Wow!’ We have got a beautiful kitchen so that we can have private views and events. We have got a fridge freezer and a dishwasher. We have got state-of-the-art heating and beautiful loos.

“And it is now just such a welcoming building. You will go from gallery to gallery and you will see work from local and national and global artists, and we have got an incredibly eclectic range of bookings this year.

“The Oxmarket is going to really come into its own, in the centre of Chichester just off East Street with parking and great flexibility, with the ability to do an exhibition for just a fortnight if you want. Not every artist will have enough work for a month-long exhibition. So we have got that flexibility – and it is just fantastic.”

The cost of it all increased when necessary work on the fabric of the building emerged, but Sophie is looking at an overall cost of around £200,000 – a target they haven’t quite reached yet. But again, Sophie is confident they will do so soon. And she would be delighted to receive any further donations to the cause through: