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The National Gallery throws its director to the wolves

5 May 2023

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 may surprise readers that Rakewell is not, as a rule, a great attender of private views. There are more enjoyable ways to spend an evening with one’s hand wrapped around a glass of wine, and there are better ways to see art than tiptoeing around the great and the good, or donors, and trying not to spill their drinks.

It may not, however, come as much of a surprise to learn that your roving correspondent was the kind of teenager who bunked off school to go to the National Gallery in London. While this was in large part thanks to free admission (never charge, national museums!), acquiring a working knowledge of one of the very best museums of Western painting in the world has come in rather handy in recent years.

Yesterday, the National Gallery released pictures of its director hosting two guests from an outfit called Watermill Wolves. Naturally Rakewell does not recommend close proximity to apex predators in confined spaces; Gabriele Finaldi’s companions were not real wolves, but wolf-dogs. The occasion was the private view of the ‘Saint Francis of Assisi’ exhibition, an event to which your lupine-leaning correspondent was not invited. The pretext must have been an allusion to Saint Francis taming the Wolf of Gubbio but readers will have to imagine Rakewell rolling her eyes and making the W for ‘Whatever!’ sign.

Having missed the opportunity to meet and, of course, take a selfie with some of our favourite beings in one of our favourite places, prose can no longer do full justice to our feelings. And so your normally self-generating columnist has turned to ChatGPT for the first time. ‘Write a threnody about the wolves at the Saint Francis of Assisi exhibition at the National Gallery, lamenting that I was not invited,’ we asked. ChatGPT answered:

Oh, the wolves of Saint Francis of Assisi,
How I wish I could have seen them in the National Gallery!
Their howls and cries, their wild eyes,
The beauty of their fur, so wise.

I can only imagine the sight,
The majestic wolves in the night.
The way they moved, the way they spoke,
The way they seemed to understand the saint’s words of hope.

Oh, how I wish I could have been there,
To witness the wolves in the air.
But alas, I was not invited,
And so I must remain deprived.

We continue to lick our wounds, if not in a wolfish fashion, but must admit to feeling somewhat more seen.

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