Q&A with Chris Ferguson

Simon Stephens, 14.10.2014
Auckland Castle head curator Chris Ferguson on Spanish art in Durham
Chris Ferguson is the head curator at Auckland Castle, which is jointly hosting a Spanish Art Symposium (23-25 October) with the Bowes Museum and Durham University. This has been developed in collaboration with Madrid’s Museo del Prado

The collections of Auckland Castle, the Bowes Museum and Durham University represent the most significant British holdings of Golden Age Spanish art outside London. 

Businessman and philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer donated £25m to secure the future of Auckland Castle in 2012. Ferguson, who worked on the redevelopment of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, joined in 2013.

Are people surprised that County Durham has such significant collections of Golden Age Spanish art?

Yes, although I hope that reaction doesn’t last for much longer. It’s remarkable that for so long County Durham has had such an outstanding collection of Spanish art that hasn’t been recognised. 

Our challenge is to make Spanish art, particularly that from the Golden Age, open and accessible.

What are the main aims of the symposium?

The symposium will highlight the outstanding collections of Spanish art in County Durham, build and publicise the partnership between Auckland Castle, Bowes Museum, Durham University and the Museo del Prado and encourage participation from academics, professionals and students to further our understanding of these collections. 

Most importantly for me, we want to explore how we can engage public interest in Spanish art, in particular religious images.

How do you see the partnership between Auckland Castle, Bowes Museum and the Museo del Prado developing?

This is the beginning of what I hope will be an incredibly meaningful and fruitful partnership. 

From here, we are looking to create a hub for the study and appreciation of Spanish and Hispanic art, and develop a world-class programme of future exhibitions.

How will County Durham and its museums benefit from becoming a centre for the appreciation and study of Spanish art?

The international profile of the existing collections, along with new plans we are developing, will hopefully attract new audiences to the region. 

This will support the rich and diverse offering of heritage sites and museums in the north east, from Hadrian’s Wall to contemporary art at Baltic and Mima, Beamish and Durham Cathedral. 

I hope that we will make a significant contribution to the local cultural profile, driving economic regeneration through tourism.

Can you tell us about your plan to create a national museum for the history of faith with the British Museum?

Auckland Castle has received significant backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund to enable us to restore the palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham, and construct a new wing to house our new permanent galleries, 5,000 Years of Faith

These displays will tell the history of Britain from prehistory to the present day, through the lens of faith and religious art.

For further information on the Paintings of the Spanish Golden Age: The Collections of County Durham symposium, visit http://aucklandcastle.org/


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20.10.2014, 09:31
Wow! I love this. But, what about Spanish art, in particular religious images, across the Atlantic, where there is a bunch of Spanish and Hispanic heritages that have had very strong impacts on contemporary arts in Latin America?