The Agenda: Culture - Issue 173 - Magazine | Monocle

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art ––– venice
Altered imaging

If you happen to be an artist at the apex of your career, what do you do when given carte blanche at one of Europe’s most prestigious exhibition spaces? The stock answer is to round up the best artworks from the archives and stage a grand retrospective. But the parallel exhibitions at the Pinault Collection’s two spaces in Venice – Julie Mehretu’s Ensemble at Palazzo Grassi and Pierre Huyghe’s Liminal at Punta della Dogana – both shake up the traditional solo show format to eye-opening ends.

“There is a weird rewriting that makes it seem like art is only independent, visionary moments,” Addis Ababa-born US artist Mehretu said on opening day in March. “The truth is that none of us makes all of this by ourselves.” For Ensemble, she invited seven fellow artists who have influenced her through collaborations or just dinner-table conversations. Around Palazzo Grassi’s atrium, works by the likes of David Hammons and Tacita Dean are interspersed with Mehretu’s bold, inimitable canvases. At the start of the exhibition, visitors are presented with a documentary about Mehretu’s career and creative process. The result is a personal show that helps to demystify the making of an artwork. Huyghe’s Liminal at Punta della Dogana is, instead, all mystery. There are no labels on the walls, and visitors must feel their way through cavernous, Tadao Ando-designed spaces in the dark. The new work in the show includes two videos driven by machine learning and centres loosely on a human skeleton that Huyghe came upon in Chile’s Atacama desert. 


On show alongside this year’s Art Biennale, Liminal and Ensemble are unmissable stops on the way to the Giardini and the Arsenale. Both jumble the stale idea of the artist as a lone genius: one by celebrating art as a social endeavour; the other by ceding control to a machine. Even Huyghe handed over one room to the drawings of Anthony Nosiku Ikwueme, a young artist who years ago wrote him a letter out of the blue and struck up a dialogue. “We’re in a discourse all the time, and that’s how art gets made,” said Mehretu. “In fact, that’s how art gets better.” 

Julie Mehretu’s ‘Ensemble’ runs until 6 January 2025. Pierre Huyghe’s ‘Liminal’ runs until 24 November;

media ––– brazil
Press run

Brazil’s five largest newspapers experienced a rise in circulation last year. Financial paper Valor Econômico is now looking to expand internationally. For editor-in-chief Maria Fernanda Delmas, the US presidential election and local ballots in Brazil are the top priorities. Here are three other Brazilian titles to look out for. 

Carbono Uomo/ Carbono Donna
Published by Lili Carneiro, from publisher Editora Carbono, the lifestyle quarterly takes an elegant look at Brazilian fashion, tourism and art.

With its large format and in-depth political coverage, this monthly is one of the most admired Brazilian titles – think of it as a tropical New Yorker.

Ela (O Globo)
One of Brazil’s few magazine supplements, from daily O Globo, Ela is a fun weekly look at fashion, the best from Rio and great columns, all cleverly edited by Marina Caruso.

Listen to our interview with Maria Fernanda Delmas on ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

film ––– global

Hans Zimmer
Composer and producer


Think of the memorable scores that underpin the blockbuster films of the past 40 years and there is a high chance that the man responsible is German composer and music producer Hans Zimmer.

Zimmer, whose work is known for helping to steer both the plot and the audience’s emotional response, has been the recipient of four Grammy Awards and two Academy Awards for best original score, for The Lion King (1994) and Dune (2021). monocle caught up with him to discuss his work on Dune: Part Two, his approach to world-building and the enduring passion he retains for his work. 

How did the collaboration between you and Denis Villeneuve on ‘Dune’ come about?
We were waiting for a car, and he very quietly asked me if I had ever heard of a book called Dune. I became one of those little dogs that gets excited and jumps up and down. I think I scared him a little bit with my enthusiasm.

The music feels like such an organic part of the film. Is that how you see it?
The whole idea, especially in movies like this, is that we are world-building. There’s nothing there before we start, so it’s very important that it’s not just about pretty tunes; it’s about building the sonic landscape that these characters inherit.

What’s your motivation for your work?
I try to do my best because I know people work hard. If, when the weekend comes, they put their hard-earned money down to go to see our movie, I had better deliver the goods. That’s who I write for: the audience. I love what I do.

ART ––– Venice
Foreign affairs

This April the 60th edition of the Venice Biennale is uniting creatives from around the globe to celebrate the brightest and best of the contemporary art world. We speak to national pavilion curators about their projects and reflections on this year’s theme: “Foreigners Everywhere”. 

Jacob Fabricius & Lee Seolhui 
South Korea


Jacob Fabricius, director of Art Hub Copenhagen, and Lee Seolhui, curator at Kunsthal Aarhus, worked together during the 2020 Busan biennial in South Korea. Fabricius is the first foreign curator to represent South Korea in Venice and Lee the youngest. Titled “Odorama Cities’, the pavilion is presenting a sensory project by artist Koo Jeong A focused on people’s memories associated with the scents of Korea. 

What inspired this project?
jf: It was a natural choice to look at scent because it’s immaterial, weightless and borderless, yet has this immersive aspect. When you look at the history of Korea and the Korean peninsula, it’s been divided into North and South. But since scent doesn’t know borders, it brings people together. That’s why it’s interesting to capture olfactory memories from the whole Korean peninsula. 

How does your project relate to this year’s theme?
sl: I’m South Korean but when I talk about North Korea, I feel like a foreigner because I haven’t experienced it. My generation’s relationship with the country has been completely curtailed.

Ciprian Muresan


Cluj-based artist Ciprian Muresan shares his studio space with painter Serban Savu. They present “What Work Is”, a retrospective of Savu’s work with paintings, architectural models and mosaics looking at work and leisure in post-Eastern Bloc Romania. 

What inspired this project?
Serban had been thinking about big, outdoor mosaics. He started architectural models for ideas that he couldn’t complete because of budget restrictions. I suggested starting from these objects. 

How does your project relate to this year’s theme?
On one hand, Serban touches on the commodification of an artist’s labour. Romania has about four million people working abroad in places such as Italy and the UK and this creates alienation from our own culture; we become foreigners.

Andrea Pacheco González


Chilean curator Andrea Pacheco González is based in Madrid, where her work focuses on exile, memory and Latin American diasporas in Europe. In partnership with Chilean-Swedish artist Valeria Montti Colque, Pacheco González presents “Cosmonación” at the Chilean pavilion, an installation including carpets, printed textiles and photographs.

How does your project relate to this year’s theme?
Through the work of Valeria Montti Colque, we approach the specific life circumstances of the Chilean diaspora in Sweden, most of whom come from the exile of thousands of families after Pinochet’s military coup. 

Could you explain the term ‘Cosmonation’?
It refers to the term “cosmonational”, used by Haitian-American anthropologist Michel S Laguerre. He argues that diasporic communities don’t sever relations with their place of origin but remain attached to their ancestral land through family ties, cultural traditions or participation in political life through voting. In this way, they inhabit a nation extended beyond geographical boundaries. 

The 60th edition of the Venice Biennale opened on 20 April and will run until 24 November.

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