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Durham University News


First director appointed to new Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art

(20 December 2017)

Dr Stefano Cracolici, Director of the Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art

An international centre for the study of Spanish and Latin American art has appointed its inaugural director.

Dr Stefano Cracolici, Associate Professor (Reader) in Durham University’s School of Modern Languages and Cultures, will lead the new Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art.

The Centre, which has already begun operating, will be run by Durham University from newly refurbished dedicated premises in Roper House, Bishop Auckland, County Durham. Staff are expected to move into Roper House in 2018.

Culture-led regeneration

The Centre forms part of the University’s partnership with The Auckland Project, which is also creating a gallery for Spanish art in the town, as part of a major culture-led regeneration project.

The Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art will connect Durham’s academic research to the Spanish Gallery’s displays, while also providing opportunities for students, fellows and public engagement.

It is envisaged that the Centre, which will also host major conferences and workshops, will raise the public profile and understanding of Spanish and Latin American art, both in the UK and globally.

Initial funding comes via a £600,000 donation from the Santander Group, the largest it has ever made to a UK university.

Wealth of opportunity

Dr Cracolici said: “County Durham is home to the UK’s largest collection of Spanish art outside London, which provides us with a wealth of opportunity to study some of the world’s most important artworks.

“The Zurbarán Centre will provide tremendous opportunities for Durham University’s researchers and students, as well as attracting visiting academics from around the world to North East England to conduct their research into Spanish and Latin American art. It will also perfectly complement the adjacent Spanish Gallery and Santander Lord Burns Library, enabling us to bring our research to the wider public.

“I am honoured to be appointed as the Centre’s first director and look forward to developing this exciting project.”

County Durham’s collections of Spanish art include the paintings of Jacob and His Twelve Sons by Spanish master Francisco de Zurbarán, which have been housed at Auckland Castle — also part of The Auckland Project — for more than 250 years.

The new Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art is named in honour of the paintings, which also inspired the forthcoming Spanish Gallery and much of The Auckland Project’s mission.

Golden Age Spanish art

Dr Edward Payne, Head Curator: Spanish Art at The Auckland Project, said: “The incentive behind transforming Bishop Auckland into an arts, faith and heritage destination began with the purchase of Zurbarán’s Jacob and His Twelve Sons in 2012. Using this series as a springboard, we are now creating a number of attractions, including the first purpose-built gallery in the UK dedicated to the arts and cultures of Spain, which is due to open in 2019. 

“Showcasing works of art from The Auckland Project’s expanding permanent collection, as well as world-class loans from museums and galleries in the UK, Spain and the US, the Gallery will explore Spanish art from the medieval to the contemporary period, with a particular focus on the 17th Century, its Golden Age.

“Working closely with the Zurbarán Centre, as well as a curatorial fellow based at the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, we will present gallery displays informed by the latest research.”

The 2018 Times Higher Education World University Rankings placed Durham University 29th in the world for Arts and Humanities.

Expertise in Spanish and Latin American art

Professor David Cowling, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Arts and Humanities) at Durham University, said: “Our expertise and research in Spanish and Latin American art range from the Middle Ages to contemporary cinema and photography.

“The new Zurbarán Centre and our partnership with The Auckland Project will allow us to build upon these strengths and represent our commitment to the cultural regeneration of Bishop Auckland and the North East of England.”

The new Centre will work in collaboration with Durham University’s Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures, Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Centre for Catholic Studies, as well as colleagues interested in Spain and Latin America across a number of departments, including the thriving Hispanic Studies section within the School of Modern Languages and Cultures.

The partnership between Durham University and The Auckland Project, signed in September 2016, formalises a number of other joint projects between the two organisations including archaeological work at Auckland Castle, student placements and joint research projects across a number of the University’s subject areas.

Fully funded doctoral scholarship

The Zurbarán Centre has just announced the creation of a new fully funded doctoral scholarship in Spanish art-historical studies, beginning at Durham University in the academic year 2018/19. This scholarship has been created thanks to the generous support of CEEH (Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica) in Madrid, and will be devoted to art-historical projects on Spanish art of the Golden Age and/or its legacy in Britain and/or Europe up to the 19th Century.

For more information about the Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art contact

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