A UK first when the Spanish Gallery Bishop opens in Auckland

The UK’s first gallery dedicated to Spanish art, history and culture opens this week in a market town in County Durham.

The Bishop’s Spanish Gallery in Auckland focuses on Spanish Golden Age art – a period of artistic and literary development in Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries – and, though relatively small at 800 m2, it holds some of the largest paintings in the world.

The gallery is the latest in a series of cultural attractions developed by the Auckland Project, a charity founded by philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer.

He founded the charity in 2011 after acquiring a series of paintings by renowned Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbaran called Jacob and the Twelve Sons and Auckland Castle, where they had been sheltering since 1756, to save for the nation and town.

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Mr. Ruffer’s vision is for Auckland Project attractions – Auckland Castle, Deer Park and Walled Garden, Mining Art Gallery, Auckland Tower Visitor Centre, Spanish Gallery and the soon-to-be Museum of Faith – Binchester Roman Castle, Weardale Railroad and Kynren open-air night show and day park – to attract international travelers to the county.

“Some of the world’s greatest photographs we have here,” said Mr. Ruffer, supplementing his own collection with gorgeous loan pieces from the gallery.

“The great thing about the fine arts is that it’s democratic, it doesn’t take an education or a lot of knowledge to be moved by the arts.

“We hope this will be a gallery for everyone like the Mining Art Gallery and it will be the Faith Museum.”

Mr Ruffer said the most important aspect of the Auckland Project’s work is not the “paintings on the walls” but the regeneration of the area by working with local people on conservation, heritage, culture, business and community projects.

“We want to have something to appeal to everyone, I want what’s going on in Bishop Auckland to be the May Pole of Durham County,” he said.

Significant construction work was needed to create the new gallery by redeveloping two adjacent properties (the Grade II listed Backhouse Bank and the adjacent Barrington School building) into ten gallery spaces spread over three floors.

The Spanish Gallery will be open on Friday, October 15th, then Thursday-Saturday, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, until December 18, when it closes for winter.

Visitors are currently required to pre-book time slots, but tickets may be available that day. For information and tickets priced at £10 for adults with concession, go to: aucklandproject.org/venues/spanish-gallery/

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