£5.5 million new institute for Spanish art in Bishop Auckland to "stand up against any museum in world"

By Culture24 Reporter | 09 November 2015

Former bank and school in Bishop Auckland market place to become centre for Spanish art fans and academics

A photo of an oil painting by El Greco showing Jesus Christ on the crucifixion cross
El Greco, Christ on the Cross (1600-1610). Oil on canvas© Courtesy Auckland Castle
Curators say a new £5.5 million institute of Spanish and Hispanic Art, set in two disused buildings in Bishop Auckland Market Place and planned as part of the restoration of the town's 12th century Auckland Castle, will “stand up against any museum in the world”, hosting notable artworks including the newly-acquired Christ on the Cross by El Greco.

A photo of a large modern outdoor art gallery holding Spanish art in a market place
The building will be used to celebrate annual festivals in Spanish culture© Courtesy Auckland Castle
The new venue is expected to feature exquisite works by Ribera,Velàzquez and Zurbaràn, hanging alongside El Greco’s Christ on the Cross, which was recently bought by the Auckland Castle Trust for £2.5 million.

A photo of an oil painting by El Greco showing Jesus Christ on the crucifixion cross
Juan de Arellano, Still Life© Courtesy Auckland Castle
A 17th century still life by Juan de Arellano, a sculpture of the Crucified Christ by Luisa Roldán and a separate 13th century Catalonian statue of Jesus are also among the planned highlights in a “groundbreaking” new development near the castle, based around a core of Golden Age masterpieces and scheduled to open during the summer of 2018.

A photo of a large modern outdoor art gallery holding Spanish art in a market place
The Barrington Building in Bishop Auckland, where the institute will be created by summer 2018© Courtesy Auckland Castle
“The gallery and research centre represent an unparalleled concentration of Hispanic art and expertise in the United Kingdom,” says Dr Cristopher Ferguson, Auckland Castle’s Curatorial Director, who plans to showcase works from the late medieval period to the early 20th century at the new epicentre.

A photo of a large modern outdoor art gallery holding Spanish art in a market place
Curatorial Director Chris Ferguson takes a look at the plans© Colin Davison
“The Spanish gallery will be a gem in the UK’s cultural landscape, showing a limited number of great works of art that are rarely seen by lovers of Spanish culture, especially in this country.

A photo of a large modern outdoor art gallery holding Spanish art in a market place
The Barrington School building© Courtesy Auckland Castle
“For many it will be an introduction to the treasures of Spain, and we believe that with a mixture of loans from internationally famous museums and Auckland Castle’s own collection, it will be possible to achieve this.”

A photo of a large modern outdoor art gallery holding Spanish art in a market place
© Courtesy Auckland Castle
Curators from the nearby Bowes Museum and the National Gallery will be part of the Spanish galleries’ curatorial team, taking inspiration from a series of religious paintings at the castle by Zurbaràn, the 17th century baroque artist. They hope the complex will become a “nucleus” for the study and appreciation of Spanish art in Britain.

“It will be a chance for people to view pieces by some of the best-known artistic names to come out of Spain’s Golden Age here in County Durham on the walls of what will be a major new venue and research centre,” says Ferguson.

“The works on display at the Spanish gallery will stand up against those in any museum in the world.

“Alongside our other acquisitions and the works set to come to Bishop Auckland in the future, it will also help put in context other outstanding collections of Spanish art held in County Durham at the Bowes Museum and Durham Cathedral.”

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, the architectural group which won the Stirling Prize in 2008, have designed three floors of gallery spaces within the former bank and school, including a double-height atrium space for the display of larger works. An art history library is also planned.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three places to see stirring Spanish art in

Pollok House, Glasgow
The present house dates from around 1750 and contains one of the finest collections of Spanish art in the UK, including works by El Greco (the famous Lady in a Fur Wrap) and Goya.

National Gallery, London
The current exhibition, Goya's Portrait of Dona Isabel de Porcel: A Question of Attribution, is a unique opportunity to focus on the Portrait of Doña Isabel de Porcel and reconsider its attribution in the context of the exhibition Goya: The Portraits. Until January 10 2016.

Apsley House, London
The Robert Adam-designed home of the 1st Duke of Wellington boasts a remarkable collection of Spanish and Dutch masters paintings, including the world-famous Waterseller of Seville by Velazquez.
Latest comment: >Make a comment
Great stuff! It might even make better sense of the Bowes Museum. Fml25@hotmail.co.uk
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