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The art historian who became a Viking

1 April 2022

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

It’s every museum bod’s dream come true. At a ceremony in Paris last week, Ghislaine Wood, deputy director of the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, was named Godmother of the Viking Fjorgyn, one of a new fleet of eight Viking Longships (®) launched by Viking Cruises (®), which operates from headquarters in Basel (its marketing team is based in LA).

Viking is the sponsor of the Sainsbury’s large upcoming exhibition,‘Visions of Ancient Egypt’, which may have something to do with all this – though Rakewell is rather more interested in the question of what Wood’s spiritual guardianship of the boat might really mean. She appeared at the ceremony on a giant screen over Zoom, offering the wish that ‘your passengers and crew always be safe, and may you always have a hand’s breadth of water beneath your keel’ (a German idiom, roughly equivalent to ‘may you always have the wind in your sails’). She then exhorted the captain to ‘step up’ and chuck a bottle of aquavit on deck to christen the happy Fjorgyn.

All this has set your correspondent to thinking about what other creative partnerships might be forged between the worlds of art and travel. Perhaps Damien Hirst and P&O ferries might already be comparing notes on staffing policy; perhaps Ryanair might have some sage words for Maurizio Cattelan on the question of gold and toilets. And in a week that has seen Jeff Koons contriving to send his giant metal baubles to the moon, Rakewell wonders whether anyone has ever seen him in the same room as Elon Musk?

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.