The Monocle Minute

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The week ahead, opportunities and observations
Saturday 28 October 2017

Books

Untold lives

It’s difficult to see past the North Korean regime’s propaganda but a new book is lifting the lid on its citizens’ ordinary lives.

The threats of North Korea’s despotic leader Kim Jong-un may dominate the headlines but for another read on the rogue state we’d suggest cracking the cerise-hued cover of Nicholas Bonner’s fascinating new book. Made in North Korea: Graphics from Everyday Life in the DPRK unpacks the lives of those who call the reclusive regime home and tells the story through the design of commonplace ephemera, from tinned fish and hotel brochures to bus tickets and toys. “Each little object has a story and the frivolity of it is almost shocking sometimes,” says Bonner, who has been travelling to North Korea since 1993. Expect essays and insights – amid the sweet-wrappers and stamps – plus an often-mssed human side to this much-maligned nation.

Sport

Image: Shutterstock

Ballsy move

America’s latest battle for British hearts and minds is being won – one goal at a time.

Football fever is sweeping London this weekend – American football, that is. The NFL is back in town with a game on Sunday at Twickenham Stadium in southwest London, where the Cleveland Browns will take on the Minnesota Vikings. The US professional league has been playing games in the UK capital for more than a decade now and consequently the sport’s popularity has been steadily on the rise. It’s been an unequivocal soft-power coup for the US as Brits have embraced not only the game but also the entire spectacle, half-time show, cheerleaders and all. There’s now talk of establishing a permanent London team and holding games in Germany, China and Canada as well.

Film

A force to be reckoned with

A new documentary strips away the imposing facade of a unique pop icon.

Grace Jones, you’d have thought, is the perfect subject for a documentary: larger than life, luminously talented, perfectly badly behaved. The only problem, though, is that Grace Jones eats documentary-makers for breakfast (and interviewers – she punched the late British chat-show host Russell Harty mid-show). So in Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Sophie Fiennes and her camera go bravely on tour with Miss Jones and spots all of the above – talent and tantrums in spades – but also tenderness. We go back to Jones’s Jamaica and hear of her abusive stepfather, the churches attended and there is reflection and rare silence. Jones is both a force of nature and a self-invention and, fortunately for this film-maker, it seems she’d already had breakfast that day.

Culture

Image: Shutterstock

Art uncovered

Joint exhibitions in Germany and Switzerland will show hundreds of works with a troubled past.

Next week will see the opening of Gurlitt: Status Report, an exhibition staged simultaneously in Bern and Bonn showcasing pieces from Cornelius Gurlitt’s controversial collection of art amassed during the Nazi period. The 1,406 art works, confiscated from Gurlitt’s Munich apartment in 2012, include pieces by Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Marc Chagall and other modernist artists deemed “degenerate” by the regime. The hoarded masterpieces were handed down to Gurlitt by his father, an art dealer during the Third Reich. A selection will be on show at the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland from 2 November (the exhibition at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn opens the following day), shining a light on the sensitive issue of provenance. The German Lost Art Foundation is still working on locating and returning looted works to their rightful owners –but only four paintings from the Gurlitt collection have been returned thus far.

From Monocle Films

Art is Therapy

Art is about more than just a nice painting – it can be a tool for understanding the many brushstrokes of life. So says philosopher Alain de Botton, who co-curated an exhibition in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam called 'Art is Therapy'. Monocle's culture editor Robert Bound met De Botton in the Rijksmuseum to learn more about his artistic treatment.

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