Diary of events


On 23 May 2018, at 14:17, Gallery Friends <GalleryFriends@chi.ac.uk> wrote:

Dear Friends

Please read the message below which we have been asked to forward to the Friends of the Otter Gallery on behalf of Catherine Harper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

Very best

The Otter Gallery

From: Catherine Harper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor


Dear Friends of the Otter Gallery

I would like to let you know about forthcoming plans for the Otter Gallery, Collections and Archives, and to invite you to share in what will be a return to the original vision of the two extraordinary women behind the Bishop Otter Trust Collection, formed 70 years ago.

As a visual artist myself, I know how very valuable the Otter Gallery, Collections and Archives is to you, and I want to assure you that I will be overseeing this new and exciting direction personally. I hope very much that you will engage with a new and exciting episode for the arts at University of Chichester.

Miss Murray (Principal of Bishop Otter College, 1909-98) and Miss McCririck (Head of Art, Bishop Otter College, 1916-2001) conceived a plan “to develop a collection of contemporary art that would inspire and inform the students of the University” (Otter Gallery website), it being displayed throughout the University for the benefit of students and staff. In the same spirit, the Bishop Otter Trust arranged with its Trustees for the art collection to be displayed “in a manner designed to enhance the quality of life at the College and to inspire and instruct and give pleasure to its members and visitors” (BOT Art Loan Agreement, 1979).

As you know, the original collection has been supplemented over the years by 20/21st century works funded by donations and bequests, and the University of Chichester Art Collection explicitly “exists for the benefit of students, staff and visitors, and wherever possible work is displayed on public view across the two university campuses in Chichester and Bognor Regis” (Otter Gallery website).

The Otter Gallery has been a significant part of our University life, and has allowed us to showcase our collection, to present loaned external pieces, to curate sensitively, and to promote the visual arts well. Friends of the Otter Gallery are part of that significance, and we hope will continue to be as we extend the original vision of Miss Murray and Miss McCririck by creating the Otter Gallery as a distributed, and therefore democratised, concept across both of our campuses.

You will recall the tremendous buzz in the Executive corridor when the new acquisitions exhibition opened. I recall two students the next day having a mild-mannered but vigorous debate outside my office about the pros and cons of a particular piece of art. And we have seen a steady flow of internal and external visitors pause to look, examine, comment upon the work in that space, and our other campus spaces. It is that spirit and flavour that we want to protect and preserve, and indeed we would like to see an even greater public engagement, with schools, children, community groups, and so on actively accessing and enjoying the richness of our collections.

The distributed Otter Gallery will have at its heart the Executive corridor of University House. In this academic building, Miss Murray and Miss McCririck began the exhibition of artworks, and it is here that we envisage exhibitions, events, talks and private views can continue to take place as displays are refreshed. We will continue to employ a gallery assistant, and to store our art collections and archives safely and securely. But our plan is to see much more of the collected works (most of which are in storage) displayed, themed and distributed throughout both our campuses.

The Otter Gallery, Archives and Collections Committee will continue to meet twice annually, and I will continue to chair. Our strong connections with our external partners, including Pallant House and West Sussex County Council Archives, will continue to grow and develop.

The concept of a distributed gallery is in keeping with the original ethos of the collection: that our students’ University experience is enhanced by working, learning and socialising in a culturally-rich and unique environment.

I hope very much that you will see the vision, and I hope very much that you will continue to support us as Friends.


Sincerely, with very best wishes


Professor Catherine Harper

Deputy Vice-Chancellor

University of Chichester

Executive Officer: Susan Coulter 

Tel:  01243 816 030

E-mail: s.coulter@chi.ac.uk 

TEF Silver – with recognition for outstanding student satisfaction, plus academic support for BME and WP students Teaching Excellence Framework 2017

Anne Purkiss started this petition to c.harper@chi.ac.uk and 3 others (24 May 2018)
Stop plans to close the OTTER GALLERY at the University of Chichester
The University of Chichester plans to close the Otter Gallery on the 7th of October 2018, at the end of its forthcoming exhibition ‘Conflicting Views – Pacifist  Artists’.    It is Chichester’s only free public art gallery with a permanent collection. Closing the art gallery is said to create space for the university’s other priorities. It is not explained why other space cannot be found for the gallery.
As an alternative to the current Otter Gallery, the university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Catherine Harper, proposes that artworks from the collection will be ‘more widely distributed across the campuses’ and that ‘the distributed Otter Gallery will have at its heart the Executive corridor of University House.’ It is envisaged that exhibitions, events and talks will continue to take place there.
These plans are unworkable, since much of the Otter Collection’s main works of 20th century British art are too valuable to be safely shown outside a designated gallery. The planned ‘distributed Otter Gallery’ would also lose its Arts Council England accredited status. Depriving it of the associated benefits, and making it difficult to obtain works of art on loan from external sources. Private sponsorship and future donations to the collection will likewise be affected by the loss of an accredited gallery to display work safely and to professional standards.
We need to act as a matter of urgency before the gallery that has built a national reputation over the past twenty years is closed with no purpose-built space of a similar quality to replace it: https://ottergallery.wordpress.com/
If you believe that art galleries contribute to an excellent wide-ranging education for students, staff and the wider community, please sign this petition against the closure of the Otter Gallery.

PETITION UPDATE, 25 May 2018:  Update on the petition to stop plans to close the Otter Gallery

The petition to stop plans to close the OTTER GALLERY was signed by 299 people within 24 hours of being posted.

Several supporters have left comments, among them leading artists such as the paintersTess Jaray RA and Laetitia Yhap.
Phyllida Barlow RA wrote: “Universities need galleries – art extends education and the experience of how to learn. A gallery is a resource to stimulate imagination and innovation. To get rid of a gallery on a university campus is a brutal act of philistinism. Don’t go down that route.”

Please share this petition with others who might also be interested in signing it.

Thank you for your time and your support,
Anne Purkiss.

PETITION UPDATE, 28 May 2018:  Close to 1000 signatures to save the Otter Gallery

In the first four days since it was launched, the petition to save the Otter Gallery has attracted 960 signatures. The campaign has now its own website:  https://ottergallery.wordpress.com/  with regular updates, a second campaign manager and a webmaster.

Please pass the link to our website on to friends, neighbours and colleagues and keep posting your comments to this petition.

PETITION UPDATE, 1 June 2018: Media coverage for Petition to Save the Otter Gallery

During the past four days BBC News South, the Museums Association and the local Chichester Observer have run stories about the planned closure of the Otter Gallery.You can now follow updates on the petition on Twitter @SaveOtter . The website www.ottergallery.wordpress.com is updated daily with comments that were left on the petition website. Please continue to share the petition with others, and share your views on the petition website or via the ‘Contact’ page on www.ottergallery.wordpress.com .

PETITION UPDATE, 8 JUN 2018: Number of signatures getting close to 2000 

The petition had live coverage on BBC Sussex on June 5th.
The number of signatures has grown close to 2000, and our website www.ottergallery.wordpress.com is updated daily with new comments.
The university has still not announced the planned closure of the Otter Gallery on its website, leading potential students to believe that an art gallery is one of the facilities the university has to offer. Please help to make these plans public.
Your support for this petition is vital, please pass the message on to everybody who might be directly or indirectly affected by the decision.

PETITION UPDATE, 18 June 2018: The installation of what is planned to be the Otter Gallery’s last exhibition has started today.

‘CONFLICTING VIEWS: PACIFIST ARTISTS’ will be open to the public from June 25th to October 7th, and it is accompanied by a book by Dr Gill Clarke, the gallery’s curator.
More than 2,150 people have so far signed the petition to stop the closure of Chichester’s only free public gallery with a permanent collection, many of them have also added their comments.
Please continue to share links to this petition, to www.ottergallery.wordpress.com and follow us on @SaveOtter.

PETITION UPDATE, 6 July 2018: Chichester University website does still not inform about gallery closure

Six weeks ago, the planned closure of the Otter Gallery was announced without prior warning to gallery staff and to the Friends of the Otter Gallery.
This week’s update of the Otter Gallery’s website gives news about the current exhibition, but does not inform about the immanent closure of the gallery, nor is this mentioned anywhere else on the University’s website.
It is still unclear why the university finds it necessary to close its art gallery and disperse a collection of national importance, why no attempts were made to find an alternative solution and why the university does not want to publicise its plans.
The petition against the closure of the Otter Gallery is currently supported by 2275 signatures including the names of six Royal Academy artists and a Fellow of the Royal Society.
In view of the lack of official information from the university about its plans to close the Otter Gallery, please continue to spread the news to others in your community or in your field of work.

PETITION UPDATE, 15 July 2018: Readers’ letters in local newspapers against plans to close the Otter Gallery

Local newspapers have published readers’ letters expressing concern about the planned closure of the Otter Gallery and the dispersal of its collection, see our Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/SaveOtter . The number of signatures on the petition is growing, whilst the University of Chichester does still not inform current or prospective students on its website about the planned closure of its art gallery. Many people affected by the decision have only heard or read about it from other sources, such as this campaign.
Please keep informing others, write to newspapers or spread the news on social media.
And don’t miss the excellently curated current exhibition.

PETITION UPDATE, 5 August 2018: ‘HIGH PRINCIPALS Otter madness’

The current issue of ‘Private Eye’ has given some publicity to the Deputy-Vice Chancellor’s plans for the future of the Otter Gallery under the headline: ‘HIGH PRINCIPALS  Otter madness’.

The Petition to Save the Otter Gallery at the University of Chichester has reached almost 2370 signatures. This is its final update. The petition will be closed on August 24th, three months after it was launched following an e-mail that informed the Friends of the Otter Gallery about the planned closure of the gallery.

Since its launch, on  May 24th, it has also attracted more than a hundred comments, which have been copied and kept as a record. A selection can be read on our website.
Throughout the past ten weeks the university has not acknowledged the existence of this petition or responded to concerns raised by those who signed it. An open letter to the Chair of the Board of Governors, Prof. Jim Lynch, was answered with the suggestion that ‘you write directly to Professor Catherine Harper to express your concerns’. Prof. Harper has initiated the planned closure of the gallery and this petition and the comments are already addressed to her.

As a legacy to this campaign, its website will be maintained and regularly updated. It will preserve the memory of the creation of the Otter Gallery and its unique collection and ultimately its dispersal and the attempts to save and preserve it for future generations.
The website will continue to show the documentary ‘Making the Bishop Otter Art Collection’, and it will keep a record of the publicity and the correspondence associated with gallery’s closure. Please continue to follow https://ottergallery.wordpress.com/ after August 24th.

Thank you for your support,
Anne Purkiss.

September 4, 2018

The Otter Gallery gets its own Wikipedia entry:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otter_Gallery

October 7, 2018

The Otter Gallery closes officially with the end of its last exhibition ‘Conflicting Views – Pacifist Artists’.

November 2, 2018

All pages and references to the Otter Gallery and the Bishop Otter Collection disappear from the website of Chichester University. The links from ART UK and UMAC to the collection are broken.

Members of the Collection Committee of the Bishop Otter collection had been promised a meeting to discuss the future of the collection in September, that was later postponed to December. The meeting has now been completely cancelled. Members have been thanked for their service and notified by e-mail and by letter that the committee is closed. A new committee will be formed and  ‘repopulated’ within the next quarter.

November 8, 2018

All pages for the Otter Gallery and the history of the Bishop Otter Collection have been reinstated on the university website. The section ‘Our History’ remains without reference to the university’s art collection and its founders.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor tweets in reply to a Tweet by PhD student Kay Channon: ‘just reconfiguring some webpages, so don’t worry – we won’t be losing any of the history we treasure…’.

The university website announces the exhibition ‘Final Element’ of work by final year MA students in the space of the Otter Gallery for November 16 – December 18, 2018.

November 13, 2018

The International Council of Museums, Committee for University Museums and Collections, has sent an Open Letter to the Vice-Chancellor of Chichester University and the Bishop Otter Collection is featured as ‘Collection of the month’ on its website .

Lisbon, 12 November 2018

Dear Vice-Chancellor Jane Longmore,

UMAC, the Committee for University Museums and Collections of the  International Council of Museums, is disheartened to learn of the closure of the gallery housing the Bishop Otter Collection of important 20th century art at the University of Chichester.

The Otter Gallery is featured in UMAC’s World Database of University Museums and Collections and well-known in the UMAC-community. We express our deepest concern for the future of the Bishop Otter Collection in the absence of a purpose-built secure gallery. We are also concerned about the effects that the closure of the Otter Gallery will have on the University as a whole, the Chichester community and the wider public.

The arguments against the decision of the Vice-Chancellors’ Group of Chichester University earlier this year have been widely examined and commented upon in the British museum community as well as in the media. They undermine the vision of the University of Chichester to become “internationally recognized as a beacon of good practice for high quality, student-centred higher education”. The loss of a vital teaching space that has inspired several generations of students is not good practice nor high quality student-centred higher education. The dismissal of a legacy whose origins date back to the late 19th century is rare in a University that wants to project an image of prestige and stability, particularly among future students, donors and stakeholders in the UK and abroad. The lack of consultation and debate, especially relevant in the case of the Bishop Otter Gallery – the only free public art gallery with a permanent collection in Chichester – was also stressed by the media as was the likely loss of museum accreditation status if the collection abandons its dedicated gallery.

UMAC would like to focus, however, on your responsibility towards the integrity of this remarkable collection. The decision to disperse the Bishop Otter Collection across several campuses places its conservation and security at great risk. Works of art have disappeared in the past and the establishment of a dedicated gallery was precisely aimed at diminishing that risk. It was then considered, rightly so, that the preservation of these outstanding works was more important than the founders’ ‘original vision’.

The Bishop Otter Gallery has been officially closed for a month now. We understand that it will temporarily re-open this month for a short exhibition. We are convinced that the decision can be reversed, and the Bishop Otter Gallery can be permanently reopened. It occupied practically no space in the campus (less than 100 m2) and its curator worked on a voluntary basis supported by volunteers, thus its operational costs were close to zero. However, the costs of closure, for Chichester University’s reputation, in the UK and internationally, are clear.

Trusting that you want to return the Bishop Otter Gallery to the fruition of your students and the public, we will be following the developments closely,

Yours sincerely,

Marta C. Lourenço

President of UMAC-ICOM

University of Lisbon, Portugal


Suay Aksoy, President of the International Council of Museums, ICOM

Sébastien Soubiran, President of the European Academic Heritage Network (Universeum)

Tonya Nelson, Chair of ICOM-UK

Maggie Appleton, President of the Museums Association UK


The Otter Gallery is UMAC COLLECTION OF THE MONTH in November 2018.