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From Gold Digger to Gossip Girl – meet cutes at the museum

7 December 2019

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

There’s a scene in the 1998 romantic comedy Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence (released as the much blander title The Very Thought of You in the United States) in which two of the leads – Monica Potter’s Martha and Frank, played by Rufus Sewell – visit an art exhibition. ‘Look at that bloke pretending he’s interested in the paintings,’ Frank comments. ‘He’s read in some magazine this is the best pick-up joint in London – that’s what he’s doing here.’ Soon he’s arguing from the specific to the general: ‘The only reason anyone ever comes to an art gallery is to get laid.’

Certainly, there’s plenty of TV- and movie-based evidence to support Frank’s claim – most recently, in the first episode of the BBC’s Gold Digger, in which Julia Ormond’s retired conservator (Julia) bonds with a dashing younger gentleman played by Ben Barnes (Benjamin) over an ‘object removed’ sign in a display case at the British Museum.

There are heavy hints that this museum ‘meet cute’ may not be entirely accidental, although Rakewell admits he has not yet got much further than this scene to find out. Here’s hoping Julia’s fortunes don’t echo that of Angie Dickinson’s character – stabbed to death after sleeping with a mysterious stranger first encountered in the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art – in the thriller Dressed to Kill (1980).

Or Woody Allen’s hapless film critic, who unsuccessfully hits on a fellow museum-goer in Play it Again, Sam (1972).

But despair not, lovelorn art lovers! There’s always the chance that, like Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf, you might end up marrying (albeit later divorcing) a prince after meeting in front of Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe at the Musée d’Orsay.

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