Friday. 13/9/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Tom Edwards

Art vs football

For a pastime that bills itself as the beautiful game, football sure does produce peerlessly ugly statues. This week we learnt that Swedish soccer’s titan of immodesty, Zlatan Ibrahimović, is to get the bronze treatment in his hometown of Malmö. So what should we expect? Well, if you look to Zlatan’s rival in the pedigree footballer vanity showcase, Cristiano Ronaldo, disappointment awaits. Who can forget the bust of Portugal’s finest that was revealed in Madeira in 2017? So offensive to the eyes was this monstrous maquette, his head looking like a cake left in the rain, that it was rapidly replaced by a more classical piece that would have looked more at home on the east pediment of the Parthenon.

Meanwhile, David Beckham was cast for posterity in Los Angeles; that turned out more superannuated Clark Kent than Superman. George Best didn’t fare much better earlier this year when his “likeness” was revealed in Belfast – fortunately for him, he wasn’t alive to see it. And a statue of Diego Maradona revealed in India in 2017 depicted him with a bouffant more befitting of an octagenarian grandma after a trip to the salon.

It seems that the bigger the footballing talent (and ego), the harder it is to capture in statuary. All eyes on Malmö next month then; just don't expect to like – or even recognise – what’s unveiled.

Geopolitics / Israel & Russia

It’s complicated

Benjamin Netanyahu met Vladimir Putin in Sochi yesterday, just days before elections back at home. In the week that the Israeli prime minister made a controversial promise to annex parts of the West Bank if he were re-elected, it’s unsurprising that the topic shaped much of the discussion with his counterpart. Putin unequivocally condemned Netanyahu’s plan, which some see as a last-ditch attempt to court right-wing support (which he desperately needs to secure another term). Hypocritical though Russia’s stance is, the Kremlin is playing a long game when it comes to Arab-Israeli mediation in the Middle East and can’t afford anything other than relative stability. “As much as a third of the population of Israel is either Russian or from elsewhere in the former USSR, so both sides are keen for dialogue,” says Russia specialist Stephen Dalziel. “But while the old Soviet-Arab connection may be shaky, it’s still there.”

Fashion / Japan

Wardrobe update

Yusaku Maezawa, the founder and CEO of Zozo, Japan’s largest online fashion mall, is leaving after more than two decades in charge. Maezawa will sell 30 per cent of the company as part of a ¥401bn (€3.4bn) deal that hands over control to internet portal Yahoo Japan (owned by telecoms firm Softbank). The sale is a ¥244bn (€2.1bn) windfall for Maezawa and a lifesaver for Zozo, which has suffered from recent missteps. The company’s practice of discounting merchandise has angered fashion brands and retailers selling through Zozo’s site and, in November, the company announced it would scrap its in-house custom-sized clothing brand and hi-tech body-measuring Zozosuit. With e-commerce giants Amazon and Rakuten muscling in on the online fashion sector, Zozo will need all the resources it can muster to stay dominant.

Media / The US

Interrupted transmission

At a time when keeping tabs on the US government is particularly relevant, news of the California Channel’s closure is sobering. This decades-old public broadcaster, known as Cal Channel, broadcasts non-partisan, unedited coverage from Sacramento of California’s Supreme Court, as well as the bicameral legislature inside the Capitol. “This is where policy that affects a lot of people is set,” says Christina Bellantoni, journalism professor at the University of Southern California. The decision to close Cal Channel seems to be financial; the non-profit California Cable and Telecommunications Association has been its sole financier since 1993. “It’s a public service the same way a library is a public service,” says Bellantoni. “People should be able to see what their government is doing.”

Fashion / London

Falling apart at the seams?

London Fashion Week kicks off today with a series of shows from emerging UK talent. The likes of Matty Bovan and Marta Jakubowski will be setting out to impress with their SS20 collections, while Monday sees the return of UK behemoths Burberry and JW Anderson. And it’s not just clothing in the spotlight this year: Louis Vuitton’s artistic director Virgil Abloh will be unveiling a collaboration with Ikea. Yet for all the hype, the stormy clouds of Brexit are lurking nearby. That’s not good news for Fashion Week, which generates more than €112m in clothes orders by being reliant on an international workforce that includes more than 10,000 European staff. Come SS21, significant alterations might not be confined to the clothes.

M24 / Monocle on Design: Extra

‘Creative Spaces’

We speak to Ted Vadakan who co-founded LA art-and-design brand Poketo along with Angie Myung. He talks about their new book Creative Spaces.

Monocle Films / Spain

The Monocle Quality of Life Conference: Madrid

Join us to discover all the Spanish capital has to teach us, be it inviting hospitality, nocturnal delights or the recipe for a long and happy life. Prepare to be challenged and inspired by a host of thinkers unpacking architecture, entrepreneurship, media, retail, entertainment and more.

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