The Monocle Minute

In association with Brand Hong Kong x Monocle logo

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 25 March 2016

Image: Sjors Provoost

Manga’s moment

It’s hard to believe there isn’t one already but Japan is finally going to get a national manga museum. As with everything in Tokyo these days, the Manga National Center is scheduled to open in spring 2020 – just in time for the Tokyo Olympics. The costs, which are estimated at ¥10bn (€80m), will mostly be covered by private funds. Monetising the world’s fascination with Japanese manga and anime has been a bafflingly long struggle for the government, not least because deputy prime minister Taro Aso is a huge fan. Aso is part of an all-party group of MPs has been putting together draft plans for the centre. The museum is envisaged as the centrepiece of the project and would collect and exhibit original manga and anime artwork. About time too in a country where one manga title alone – One Piece – has shifted more than 320 million copies and counting.

Image: Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

Two do the tango

It may not have garnered quite the same attention as Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba – the first from a sitting US head of state for about 90 years – but the commander in chief’s subsequent touchdown in Argentina was equally pertinent. His agreement to meet centre-right president Mauricio Macri – who won elections at the end of last year – shows just how much the panorama has changed in South America with the demise of the so-called leftist “pink tide”. With the Kirchners no more in Argentina – plus Evo Morales’s recent referendum defeat in Bolivia and Nicolás Maduro looking increasingly embattled in Venezuela – Macri has the opportunity to reset relations and reorientate trade. And with Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff fighting a scandal, the Argentine leader no doubt saw Obama’s visit as his major chance to shine as a regional statesman.

Image: Kenzo Tribouillard/Getty Images

Far-right opportunism

One of the more troubling trends that has emerged in the aftermath of the Brussels attacks has been the eagerness of populist parties across the EU to hijack the debate and draw the migration crisis into the circle of blame. In Germany Frauke Petry, co-leader of the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland party, emphatically stated that “the dream of a colourful Europe is dead, bombed away yet again”. In Austria far-right leader Heinz-Christian Strache spoke of “irresponsible mass immigration from the Arab world”, while in Italy the right-wing Northern League called for the immediate closure of borders and mosques. These arguments are opportunist and unhelpful so soon after the atrocities but they also aim to stir up hate and anger towards people – the vast majority of whom are genuine refugees – who desperately need the EU’s help.

Image: Art Basel

Advancing the arts

As Art Basel gets into full swing at the usually drab Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, architects and property developers are moving in on the art space with their own elaborately designed lounges and quirky café corners. Abstract paintings from the late Chinese-French superstar painter Zao Wou-ki and a colourful work by acclaimed US visual artist Pae White are alongside installations such as the Swire Properties Lounge, designed by Hugh Dutton. Standing at the main entrance, it will host tête-à-têtes with artists and curators under a wavy ribbon of translucent fabric arranged in the shape of a number eight, which is considered lucky in Chinese culture. Once the fair ends the calls for more permanent art venues will surely begin and developers should take note. South Korean curator Dr Yongwoo Lee, the founding director of the Gwangju Biennale, says, “People in Hong Kong should be more confident about the city's future and build more galleries and museums; the collectors community will come out.”

From Monocle 24

Image: Arup Crop

London’ Garden Bridge

Thomas Heatherwick's Garden Bridge development – a €220m tree-lined crossing over the Thames mooted for completion by 2018 – has grabbed headlines for both good and bad reasons. Sam Jacob, professor of architecture at the University of Illinois, tells us how the bridge fits into the bigger story of London’s urban greenery, from its Georgian beginnings to the present day.

From Monocle Films

Venice Architecture Biennale – National Pavilions

As practitioners gear up for the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale in May we revisit our coverage of last year’s to see how the national pavilions responded to Rem Koolhaas’s reign as curatorial director.

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