Culture / Global
London’s art-world future after Brexit, plus documentarian Andrew Rossi takes on Manhattan’s Met.
The close up
Heavily bearded professional duck hunter Phil Robertson is a reality-television star and politically minded friend of Donald Trump.
Phil Robertson is the controversial star of TV series Duck Dynasty, which just wrapped its 10th season. The show follows Robertson and his family as they build their duck-hunting business. The opening episode of the fourth season, which aired in 2013, was watched by close to 12 million people, the most-viewed non-scripted TV series on US cable. However, the 70-year-old was briefly suspended by the broadcaster after claiming that homosexuality was sinful. He also stars in Duck Dynasty spin-off shows called Benelli Presents Duck Commander and Buck Commander, both for the Stan Kroenke-owned Outdoor Channel.
Duck Dynasty is filmed on the banks of the Ouachita River in Louisiana, where the Robertson family own about 400 hectares of land. In addition to their work in the field, Robertson can often be found in West Monroe at the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, Landry’s Vineyard, Catfish Cabin and 10-pin bowling alley Bayou Bowl.
Devout Christian Robertson is a rare television star: a right-wing, gun-toting, Miley Cyrus-hating, pro-life critic of Hollywood. He recently featured in Torchbearer, a documentary that looks at whether Nazi genocide, Isis and Robespierre’s French Terror were the results of godless societies. It was directed by right-wing news organisation Brietbart founder Stephen K Bannon – the man who now finds himself in charge of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Having been a rising star as quarterback for Louisiana Tech, Robertson eschewed the NFL for his own lucrative duck-hunting business. He set up Duck Commander, which sold duck calls, in 1972 and has since turned it into a multimillion-dollar business.
Despite originally supporting Ted Cruz in his presidential bid, Robertson subsequently endorsed Trump, urging Duck Dynasty fans to vote for him as the “biblically correct” candidate. Robertson’s notoriety is set to continue through to November’s US presidential elections – and no doubt beyond.
Expired artistic licence?
Every October the art world flocks to London for the Frieze fair. But in the wake of Brexit, how secure is the city’s year-round status as a cultural capital?
The lead article in this month’s Culture section asks, “How do you buy a work of art?” We’re advising on where to start, how to look, how to seal the deal and assesses whether or not it’s right to go entirely on instinct.
There’s information and inspiration to be gleaned from an art adviser and artist alike. Sure, Lisa Schiff advises big-money collectors but she started small – and I get the feeling that that’s where her heart is too. If, as Andy Warhol said, “art is about liking things”, our guide sets out to equip you with the tools to get liking in earnest.
The timing is no mistake of course. London in early October is all about art thanks to the Frieze fairs, the alternatively dazzling (and tastefully grey) suns around which satellite fairs, auctions, grand exhibitions and parties orbit (including Monocle 24, which will be broadcasting live from both fairs). The Pavilion of Art and Design celebrates its 10th birthday during Frieze, just weeks after the 25th anniversary issue of Frieze magazine reaches the newsstands. Since 1991 it has grown from being the title that tracked the paint, sweat and tears of the 1990s British art scene to becoming a priceless, major work in itself.
The common denominator in all of this is London. This was where the most exciting art came from during that period and where the overseas investment poured in. It was where the big New York dealers opened ever bigger galleries and where Tate Modern opened to become the defining image in the head of much of the world when it thought of contemporary art and what it stood for (big, famous places in which quite big, quite famous art resides).
But why the use of the past tense? Well, can London still hack it? Is it still the cultural capital of the world? The debate is always an interesting one; a parlour game of Top Trumps ranking the strengths and weaknesses of various New Yorks, Parises and Berlins and their cultural clout. But the question has been thrown into more urgent territory by Brexit and by a world that seems to be turning the wrong way half the time. Maybe property prices will tumble and Chelsea will once again become the haunt of starving artists. Or maybe it’ll be such a pain in the arse that European galleries will clear out altogether.
Here’s the rub, cats: maybe you’ve seen the invitation on the Monocle website? Or failing that, just to the left here. We’re doing a panel discussion on this very question on 19 September at Monocle HQ. Our panellists, including the director of the Frieze fairs, Victoria Siddall, will shed plenty of light (both dazzling and tasteful, of course). My money’s on a “yes” but you lot are a tough crowd to read, aren’t you? Pop by if you want the scoop (and a beer, natch).
Music by kids that’s an adult treat and a debut that irresistibly blends pop and soul.
Afterschool Special: The 123s of Kid Soul
The eagle-eared crate-diggers at Numero Group have put together the world’s most charming compilation: 19 tracks from the 1970s halcyon days of child-soul sensations, as perfected by the marketeers’ dream team, the Jackson Five. These kids – The Bennetts, Cash, Five Ounces of Soul – sing as if they were lovestruck adults, and it’s weird in the best sense. You’ll be hooked in a big, grown-up way.
With production help from Savages and The XX affiliates, the young Londoner has cooked up a debut of perfect pop and killer contemporary soul that’s sure to keep festivals and slow-dance DJs happy. Jones is beautiful but proper soulful too. Live, she’s a dream; on record, irresistible.
Director and producer
The sharp eye behind the lens of 2011 documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times has turned his attention to another Manhattan institution: the Metropolitan Museum’s costume institute and Met Gala. The First Monday in May is a fascinating look at curation as elegant feathers fly.
You have some natural performers in your film; did they forget your camera was there?
I think that because Anna Wintour is so frequently subject to the camera’s gaze – she has a natural force field that surrounds her in public. But filming her in the museum, she was so engaged with accomplishing the tasks at hand that yes, she seemed to forget that I was shooting.
The film encompasses a nice mix of inspecting the job of curating while cutting to slightly bitchy party-planning. How did you manage to find the balance?
We follow Andrew Bolton as curator in charge of the Costume Institute and Anna Wintour’s role as chair of the Met Gala. Anna’s work in raising funds for the museum is as necessary to it’s survival as the intellectually rigorous and daring work that Andrew does as the curator. So in this binary narrative we hoped to be able to create a commentary on the marriage of art and commerce.
Showing how people do what they do, be it in the fashion world, museums or media, is hard work. What’s your trick?
I’m very interested in the creative process. I hope to honour the nuts and bolts of that process but also to elevate those mechanics with some sense of meaning. Sometimes there is a conflict between the individual that I’m filming and the institution that they serve. Even if they are totally aligned with the mission of the institution, obstacles emerge. And in those moments a lot of emotion can be found in the process.
A genius photographer, a fiendishly addictive game and a study of the Thames: all subjects under literary review this month.
Portrait of a Photographer
Arthur Lubow’s biography of legendary 20th-century photographer Diane Arbus begins with a telling quote from her: “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.” Within 750 pages – the product of 12 years of research – Lubow reveals the truth behind the larger-than-life artist who portrayed people on the fringes of society unlike anyone else. Despite Arbus’s estate denying him the right to publish a selection of her photographs, he vividly brings her story to life and makes you feel as though he was there when she received her first 2¼x3¼ Graflex camera or when she assisted Man Ray in Paris; throughout her voice remains strong.
The Tetris Effect
Tetris is a puzzle, literally and figuratively. From its launch in 1984 it created a generation of gamers drawn in by its irresistible block-stacking brilliance and it has kept its cultish cachet among purists. The story of its conception is just as addictive; think courtroom dramas and global intrigue, all relayed in Ackerman’s bewitching prose.
London in Fragments
Have you ever been mudlarking: scavenging the riverbanks for treasure? If not, Sandling’s story of his Thames finds may inspire you. Beautifully illustrated, it tells the history behind each Delftware tile, broken pipe and flint flake. “It is a history of Londoners for Londoners: lost possessions, found again. No equipment required, just a sunny afternoon and a low tide and what was theirs can be yours.”