Barlow Collection of Chinese Art

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The Barlow Collection of Chinese Ceramics, Bronzes and Jades was formed by Sir Alan Barlow (1881-1968). Educated at Marlborough and Oxford, Alan Barlow worked as a civil servant in several government departments. He served as Private Secretary to Prime Minister Ramsay Mac Donald in 1933 before transferring to the Treasury where he worked until his retirement in 1948. Much of his career was involved with the financing of education and culture, and Alan Barlow was himself an important link between government and cultural circles. He also served as president of the Oriental Ceramic Society for eighteen years (1943-1961). The bequest of the collection to the University of Sussex in 1974 realised a desire, shared by both Sir Alan and Lady Barlow, that the collection should be used to encourage and interest in Chinese art and culture. Worried that after his death the collection might be dispersed, and possibly sold abroad, Barlow decided to donate it to an institution where it could be used for both teaching and display purposes. Barlow wanted the collection to be used for disseminating knowledge, offering visitors the opportunity of new relationships with traditional Chinese culture as well as allowing them to develop an appreciation of the various aesthetic and tactile qualities of ceramics, jades and bronzes.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

Please contact us for details of opening hours

The Collection is closed during Christmas, Easter and August. Please contact us for exact dates as these may vary from year to year.

Admission charges

Admission is free although donations toward the care of the collection are always appreciated.

Additional info

Wheelchair access to the Library building is available.
Toilets are available in the Library building and throughout the campus.

Among the finest collections of Chinese ceramics in Britain, the Barlow Collection also plays an important role in the cultural life of the University of Sussex. The collection is actively used as a teaching collection where undergraduates and postgraduates have the opportunity to learn about both museum practice, and Chinese material culture. In addition, researchers from both the UK and overseas continually make use of the Barlow and its unique resources. The History of Art Subject Group administers the collection on behalf of the university. The collection is particularly strong in the ceramics of the Tang (618-907 CE) and Song (960-1279 CE) dynasties, with an emphasis on simplicity of form and decoration. Objects in the collection span three millennia with many periods of Chinese history represented, from the ancient Shang dynasty (c. 1700-c. 1050 BCE) to the last dynasty, the Qing (1644-1911 CE). There are over four hundred and fifty objects in the collection including Tang dynasty tomb figurines, outstandingly fine lead-glazed earthenwares and stonewares, and excellent examples of the world's first porcelain. Around twenty per cent of the collection is on display at any one time.

Collection details

Decorative and Applied Art, Fine Art

Barlow Collection of Chinese Art
University Library
University of Sussex
Brighton & Hove
East Sussex




01273 678157

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.