01 April 2021, The Tablet

The National Gallery - a shrine to art


Interview

The National Gallery - a shrine to art

Gabriele Finaldi: ‘If you’re brought up Catholic, you’re brought up in a visual culture’
Photo: © The National Gallery, london

 

The director of the National Gallery, Gabriele Finaldi, talks about its greatest-ever crisis, and shares his hopes for its future in the post-pandemic world

Few places in Britain reflect the events of Holy Week and Easter as movingly as the National Gallery, which often feels more like the National Cathedral. Its walls are festooned with glorious and touching and beautiful images of the events around Christ’s life and death: everywhere you glance, there’s another still from the story, set as often in Renaissance Italy as first-century Israel, which in itself underlines the role of art in translating spiritual themes to different times and places, and in turn tunes us into how the age-old narrative might still be relevant.

So how sad it is that the National Gallery, like most of Britain, remains closed this weekend – although there is more than a hint of hope in the voice of its director as he tells me about the plans for its reopening next month. It’s no coincidence, says Gabriele Finaldi, that as the magnolia springs into colour and the country is piqued with freshness and light, Britain’s best-known centre of art is preparing to welcome back visitors. “We’ve all learned to live with uncertainty, and there are things in the National Gallery which are lasting and eternal, whether they’re images relating to faith or just the work of its great artists.”

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