Saturday 18 May 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 18/5/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

House news / Conference

Let’s talk

Six weeks from today you could be experiencing the Monocle Weekend Edition live and in person under the sunny skies of Madrid. Imagine a lush setting; a small battalion of Monocle editors; a clutch of leading thinkers in the fields of urbanism, retail, media and entrepreneurship; a dazzling array of delegates from every corner of the world; fine food and wine; and some of the best conversations you’ve had all year.

We have some large topics to tackle at our Quality of Life Conference this year and with David Chipperfield (pictured), Jan Gehl, CNN’s Clarissa Ward and some 20 other speakers, we hope to introduce you to some ideas and opportunities that can transform your country, city, business and household. If you’d like to come, buy a ticket here. If you have questions or want to bring a bigger group you can drop a note to Hannah Grundy at

We look forward to clinking glasses with you at the end of June.

Thank you for your support.

Tyler Brûlé, Andrew Tuck
Editors, Monocle

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Life through a lens

Simon de Pury is the rockstar of auctioneers and a bit of a sage. Last year he came to the Monocle Quality of Life Conference to talk about collecting and, as he prowled the stage like a preacher of high art, he passed judgement on the world of photography. It was, he said, a difficult moment because there was just so much of the bloody stuff out there – including all those tweaked and cropped images on our smartphones (come on, why would anyone respect someone’s knowledge of lighting and apertures when all that could be cheated in seconds).

Then I bumped into a well-known art photographer who lamented that galleries had buggered up the market by forcing photographers to think big – epic-scale prints that dazzle but wipe away all hope of considered beauty. You can imagine the modern gallerist’s call now. “Mr Cartier-Bresson, we love your work but it’s just too small, darling. Can’t you whack it up a bit? People need some more bang for their buck. Go on, Henri, you can do this.”

This weekend you can head down to the Photo London fair at Somerset House – and I would urge you to go. But at the preview on Wednesday I did see what Pury and Co meant. Unlike, say, the Frieze Art Fair, which is about selling and also building brands around artists (setting up the idea of entire movements), Photo London is often akin to a posh supermarket where you can pick up something for the lounge and a nice piece for the boardroom.

Plus, unlike a visit to an art fair, you are rarely buying a one-off. This is a world of editions, the same pictures printed in various sizes and often long after the photographer died. It means that you end up seeing the same images at every fair – the identical print often on two competitor stands. Even so, editions by even modest talents can be priced at levels that make you wonder whether the gallery owner has been on the sauce. And, yes, a lot of the work is printed in epic formats for no reason other than ker-ching. So there are some silly prices and a lack of new young talent – but if you head downstairs there is a show of Vivian Maier’s work that, alone, is reason to go to Photo London.

Perhaps you have seen the film about her, Finding Vivian Maier? She was an extraordinary street photographer who documented the people and buildings of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles but whose work was unknown during her lifetime. It was only after her death that thousands of her images literally came to light.

The prints on show are small – and, yes, in later editions. However, as I walked around slowly taking each one in – including a wonderful set of self-portraits, for example where you just spot her shadow – it was mesmerising. She saw. She put into the frame things you can’t cheat with a phone app. And she did it all without thought of money or consequence or whether it would look good in a hedge-funder’s bedroom. It’s wonderful.

Hospitality / Mykonos

Beach house

Soho House & Co’s hospitality holdings now number 23 members’ clubs (or “houses” as card-carriers say), not to mention a constellation of restaurants, cinemas, spas and workspaces. May, however, marks a new chapter in the London brand’s story as it takes over an existing venture: Scorpios, a beach club in Mykonos. “I met [owners] Thomas [Heyne] and Mario [Hertel] when I was there and it was clear that the two businesses have a lot in common,” says Soho House & Co founder Nick Jones.

If Soho House’s prolific expansion (from opening roadside diners in Oxfordshire to members’ clubs in Mumbai) is anything to go by, there may be other acquisitions in the offing too. “There’s an interest for more experiences outside of the Houses,” says Jones. “The plan is to look at doing everything from summits and music events to places to ski and revive.” That all-house membership you’ve been mulling over is looking all the more tempting – we’ll see you at the seaside.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Age of reason

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine relayed a curious conversation he had with his neighbours, an octogenarian couple. He didn’t know them that well but they exchange greetings and discuss the things that Swiss people discuss when they meet in the terrazzo-lined hallways of 1960s apartment buildings: the weather, other neighbours and the speed of life.

One morning my friend bumped into one half of the couple, Marta (I forget her name but she sounds like a Marta and, in my imagination, definitely looks like one). While discussing the topics of the day she invited him to her Exit party. If you’re not familiar with this term, it refers to the Swiss organisation that helps people to end their life. It has a sizeable membership and no shortage of people who want control of when they check out of this world. As such, it’s not surprising to get invited to such an event in Switzerland, especially if you know someone who’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness or has lost the will to live. Of course, Exit is set up with a series of checks and processes to ensure that you don’t leave this world by accident or without proper, professional counsel. I’m not entirely sure if it’s the country’s confined geography and topography or simply Swiss pragmatism at play but it is globally unique in how it views “end-of-life” events. And in many ways it has made a “business” out of helping people die at a time of their choosing.

When I heard about Marta’s story – and how she seemed to be treating her cocktail gathering as a grand going-away party – it was startling. But then it began to make sense. From what my friend told me, she was terminally ill and her quality of life was due to plummet in the coming weeks. Why should she suffer? Why should others watch her pain? And why not go out on her own terms? In many ways, why not organise and host her own funeral rather than thinking about the things that might go wrong: the cousin who might want to save money on canapés, the bad flowers and dreadful music – and who thought that warm white wine was a good idea?

Marta and the whole Exit concept has stayed with me since I heard the story. As I’m all for dignity and living life to the fullest, it makes complete sense. But it also made me wonder whether modern society is creating a climate where more elderly people want to check out – and not just because they’re ill or clinically depressed.

We love to talk up the importance of the guidance that the “silver society” can offer a younger generation, and how essential their spending power is to the travel, luxury and hospitality sectors, but do we come good on this? Do we really value the observations of an 85-year-old? Are hoteliers and airlines really doing much to appeal to this audience? Somehow I don’t think that showing a grey-haired couple in billowing linen shirts walking barefoot on a beach is delivering much beyond tokenism.

As for listening to our elders, society (led by most media organisations) has sidelined the elderly because, heaven forfend, they might actually speak their mind. Moreover, what if they say something in a restaurant, on a tram – or even on TV – that’s a bit démodé? Imagine if the terminology is a couple decades out of date? What do you do if it’s captured and shared on social media? And then what do you do if you, the nephew, are caught in the frame and suddenly seen as some sort of ’phobe because you didn’t tell off the old lady next to you (your aunt, remember) for using such outdated terms before moving seats?

Grandparents and parents being out of step with their offspring is nothing new. What is new is a generation of people in positions of power who don’t know where the boundaries are and are terrified to challenge them. Much better to play it safe and not challenge terminology or stand up for perspectives, rather than invite two (or two million) critics. Better to damn and banish the 90-year-old who didn’t know the latest term for people with flexible sexual identities. We ask ourselves how we’re going to tackle loneliness among the elderly and how we can engage people in their golden years. What if they don’t want to go out? What if they’re too scared to engage for fear of being attacked for saying the wrong thing in private conversation?

If we continue on this track – banishing and silencing in a society of blind intolerance rather forgiving human lapses – Exit deserves broader access.

The interrogator / Edition 12

Julia Hobsbawm

As a vocal commentator (and critic) of how technology impacts our lives, it’s perhaps unsurprising that author Julia Hobsbawm has a penchant for print. The founder of networking firm Editorial Intelligence, she provides companies with ways of meeting useful contacts offline – something she will be discussing at Monocle’s Quality of Life Conference this June. In this latest instalment of our series dedicated to people’s media habits, she reveals all the titles that make up her sizeable weekend stack.

What news source do you wake up to? I have a love-hate relationship with actual news. If I am in the UK it is BBC Radio 4’s Today or, if I can’t face reality, it is Radio 3’s morning classical show. When abroad it’s usually the television and whatever the local station is – or, failing that, CNN.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? It has to be coffee but only after at least 10 minutes of mindfulness. Then an espresso. When at home, it is a stovetop with freshly ground continental beans from Armoni Coffee in London’s Crouch End.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? When I am on the move it’s iTunes. But at home we have a beautiful turntable and vintage speakers. I happily kick back and listen to scratchy old LPs.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? How did you know I sing in the shower? My current earworm is Lily Allen’s new album but I am the Abba generation – need I say more?

Papers delivered or a trip down to the kiosk? Nothing gives me more pleasure than a pile of newspapers. I always go and collect them.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack? Always more than five: at weekends I love novels and magazines as I do “TechnoShabbat” and stay largely offline. So The Economist, The Times Higher Education Supplement, The New Yorker, Vogue, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, The Spectator, New Scientist, Foreign Affairs and MIT Technology Review, and then House & Garden. Sometimes if I am feeling naughty, The National Enquirer: it’s irresistible nonsense.

Are you a subscriber or more of a newsstand browser? Both. I subscribe to the FT, The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph, then browse the rest.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? I love Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street but a close second is Lutyens & Rubinstein in Notting Hill.

Sofa or cinema for the evening? Cut me and I am likely to bleed 100 per cent Netflix. My favourite thing is to cosy up with my husband and watch thrillers.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late and why? I’m very pleased that Mindhunter is coming back for a second series and Manhunt: Unabomber was as superb as it was unsettling. I also adored Shtisel, basically a soap opera set in an ultra-Orthodox family in Israel.

Sunday brunch routine? Variable. Could be a family roast cooked by my husband or we decamp to my mother’s with smoked salmon, bagels, pickles and the like from Panzer’s in St John’s Wood.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? No, I stopped watching at least two years ago.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off? I read at night. I’m currently reading Damian Barr’s first novel and just finished Mary Loudon’s My House is Falling Down.

Culture / Watch / Listen / Visit

Melting pot

‘Catch-22’, Hulu. George Clooney co-directs and stars in this brilliant (and hilarious) adaptation of Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel. It’s the Second World War and US Air Force bombardier John Yossarian wants out. Yet because of a paradoxical bureaucratic rule (the now-famous Catch-22) he simply can’t. Set in southern Italy – the heat seeping into the sometimes gorgeous, sometimes gory shots – this is anti-war satire that will always remain relevant.

‘Crisálida’, Noia. Noia – full name Gisela Fullà-Silvestre – has long been working as a film-score composer for movies such as Versailles. Barcelona-born Fullà-Silvestre’s career as a sound designer feeds into this solo project to create atmospheric and enchanting pop. The four-track EP mixes flamenco-style vocals with tropical beats for a result that’s refreshingly unpredictable – and very danceable.

Venice Biennale. The event has opened its doors for the summer but with hundreds of exhibitions at the two main locations of Arsenale and Giardini, plus numerous shows across the city, it can be hard to chart an effective itinerary in this labyrinthine city. Here are our three picks for venturing beyond the headline acts.

  1. Human at Abbazia di San Giorgio Maggiore. Abstract artist Sean Scully displays paintings, stained-glass windows and a huge stacked sculpture inside a wonderful 16th-century church. The result is a rousing reflection on the relationship between spirituality and art.

  2. To Lose Your Head (Idols), Calle Quintavalle. Tucked behind the Arsenale on a peaceful islet, Catalonia’s contribution to the biennale is a fascinating exploration of the reasons why people have been tempted to both worship and destroy statues.

  3. Post Hoc, Palazzina Canonica. New Zealand’s main exhibition space may only be a stone’s throw from the Giardini but its show is interesting because it spreads out across Venice. Artist Dane Mitchell has compiled enormous lists of things that no longer exist (from extinct bird species to abandoned laws) and has planted communication towers disguised as pine trees in alleys and parks. Visitors can connect to them with their phones to hear the lists read out.

Eurovision / Song of the Year

The final countdown

The final of the 64th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Tel Aviv today. Here is what Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco says we should look forward to at the final.

  1. It’s confirmed, Madonna (pictured) will perform two songs: her classic “Like a Prayer” and a new song called “Future”, in collaboration with rapper Quavo. Having Madonna on the show makes sense, especially after the announcement that the European Broadcasting Union wants to take the event to the US in the near future.

  2. Watch out for the favourites: the Netherlands. Duncan Laurence’s ballad “Arcade” could take the trophy. But don’t be surprised if the operatic pop of Australia’s Kate Miller-Heidke or the soul-disco track from Sweden’s John Lundvik steals the top spot.

  3. If you need some kitsch, support Icelandic band Hatari with their techno BDSM song, or party like it’s the 1990s with Spain’s Miki. And yes, San Marino’s Serhat went through with his catchy “Say Na Na Na”.

  4. Former Eurovision contestants such as Eleni Foureira, Mans Zelmerlow and the wonderful Verka Serduchka will be performing each other’s songs, which should be a highlight for us Eurovision ultra-fans.

  5. 2018 was clearly the year for female singers but men dominate in 2019, from Switzerland’s Luca Hänni to Italy's Mahmood. In the list of the top 10 favourites there’s only one female singer – from Australia.

Modern etiquette / Edition 06

How should I sign off an email?

The prompt for today’s excursion came after we received several emails from people, seemingly quite senior in their enterprises, that included smiley-face emojis in their sign-offs. Now this may be all well and good when writing to your seven-year-old nephew but when introducing yourself and your company? It made us wonder if the authors had desk toys and perhaps some comedy socks on their tootsies (they would definitely say “tootsies”). Then there are those who attempt to truncate older formal sign-offs from the days of pukka letters. One pet peeve is “warmest” as without the “regards”, it conjures up an image of sweaty socks and damp underarms. Others go for initials, even a symbol; fine but best kept for internal company missives and notes to nearest and dearest. And some people even grasp for encouraging words: “Have a fantastic Monday” is one that’s sure to rankle anyone contemplating a week of hell. In the end, the clearest, safest thing is to just put your name.

Monocle Films / Spain

Campus of creativity

“Foster independent thinking” is a key phrase in modern education but few places get it right. We visit Madrid’s Colegio Estudio to meet the enlightened teachers and alumni.


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