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An international spotlight is shining on County Durham with two prestigious US exhibitions attracting international attention.

Paintings from The Auckland Project, Bishop Auckland, including works from Auckland Castle and the forthcoming Spanish Gallery nearby, have been displayed in two separate exhibitions in New York City.

Francisco de Zurbarán’s Jacob and His Twelve Sons, a series of paintings that has hung in Auckland Castle for more than 250 years, is being exhibited at the renowned Frick Collection until 22 April, while an additional selection of Spanish artworks was shown at Sotheby’s auction house earlier this month.

Both exhibitions have helped to raise the profile of Bishop Auckland with the Zurbarán paintings at The Frick Collection, in particular, generating countless column inches in worldwide publications such as The New Yorker, The Art Newspaper and Spain’s La Vanguardia.

A sold-out evening event about the exhibition, featuring Philippe de Montebello, former Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Auckland Project’s Chairman, Jonathan Ruffer, was also broadcast and viewed as far afield as Colombia and Australia.

The first ever showing of Jacob and His Twelve Sons in New York builds on a year-long in-depth technical analysis of the Zurbarán paintings at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas and an exhibition at the Meadows Museum, Dallas, which closed in January.

Ian Wardropper, Director of The Frick Collection, said: “We are thrilled to collaborate with The Auckland Project and the Meadows Museum on the first North American showing of Francisco de Zurbarán’s extraordinary series Jacob and His Twelve Sons.

“The sheer visual power and rich narrative content of this series will draw visitors in and will be beautifully complemented by the Frick’s strong holdings in Spanish art.”

Elsewhere in Manhattan, a selection of Spanish art from The Auckland Project’s collection was also on display at Sotheby’s from 26 January to 11 February. Timed to coincide with Sotheby’s Masters Week, one of their busiest weeks of the year, the exhibition featured Spanish Old Master paintings acquired by The Auckland Project through the international auction house. Jointly curated by Sotheby’s and The Auckland Project, this was the first presentation of works that will soon be displayed in the Spanish Gallery, due to open in Bishop Auckland in 2019.

James Macdonald, Senior Director at Sotheby’s, said: “It is a great privilege for Sotheby’s to play a small part in this inspirational project. Through the brief preview that this exhibition offers, we hope our viewers will be inspired to learn more about Spanish art and visit The Auckland Project in a beautiful part of North East England.”

Auckland Castle and the Spanish Gallery form part of The Auckland Project’s plans for a world-class visitor destination in Bishop Auckland, including a Faith Museum, Walled Garden and Auckland Tower visitor centre. The first of these new attractions, the Mining Art Gallery, opened in October 2017, with the rest following in stages over the next two years.

The presentation of Jacob and His Twelve Sons to American audiences was made possible, in part, by the multi-million-pound conservation programme currently underway at Auckland Castle, the historic home of the Prince Bishops of Durham. The paintings will return to England prior to the Castle’s grand reopening on Saturday, 1 December 2018.

Dr Edward Payne, Head Curator: Spanish Art at The Auckland Project, said: “The temporary closure of Auckland Castle has allowed us to travel Zurbarán’s masterpieces and further develop existing partnerships with US institutions.

“The exhibitions of our Spanish paintings in America have also provided a fantastic opportunity to share news of The Auckland Project’s exciting vision for Bishop Auckland, including plans underway for the Spanish Gallery.”

For more information about the American exhibitions and to stay up to date with The Auckland Project’s Future Plans, visit: www.aucklandproject.org.

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