Project Update – The Auckland Project Spanish Gallery Now Open
The Spanish Gallery tells the story of the Golden Age of Spanish Art. The paintings and sculptures on display, by the likes of Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán and El Greco are literally some of the greatest artworks in the world.
The canvas on which this story was to be told, were two adjoining 19th century grand buildings, through which we would invite visitors to journey with us, as they climb up over four distinct floors. The project however was not to create an art gallery in the traditional sense, but instead it set out to create a piece of experiential design that would weave these artworks together to create a larger narrative. This approach is closer to theatre design than that of a traditional gallery, but unlike a theatre where the audience is static, we invite visitors to walk across the stage and meet the principal players. The Spanish Gallery creates a piece of experiential design where visitors transition from one act to another, through changing scenes, theatrical voiles, staged props, reveals and layers, as we use scale, colour and light to deliver differing moods and distinct messages.
Our story begins with the paintings of Zurbarán in Auckland Castle that have hung there for over 250 years and follows the artist back to 16th and 17th century Spain.
We move through panelled rooms with secret carved symbols (memento mori), a room of floating back illuminated voiles, and a triple height volume where our eyes are lifted to the amazing artworks from this period. Three times we see this immense stage. We catch glimpses from peepholes or viewing windows, we walk into its very heart and are surrounded by its magisterial art and then we look down from the gods as we step out onto its high balcony.
The theme of transience dominates art from this period of Spanish life and our journey takes us to mourn those artists from this period who died young, where in a blackened room with a velvet swagged ‘catafalque’ at its centre, we are surrounded on all sides by this rich and powerful art. At other times the backdrops take on graphic wallpapers to subtlety use the symbolism of this period as we are immersed in operatic laments augmented with contemporary sounds to heighten our emotions.
And like opera, this is an immersive theatrical experience that is designed to astonish, entertain and amaze our visitors.