Tuesday 1 October 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 1/10/2019

The Monocle Minute

Image: Silverlens Galleries

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Is bigger still better?

Much has been written about how the increasingly busy art calendar means that giant art fairs (read: the Basels and the Friezes) are losing ground to smaller boutique events. While it’s true that Art Monte Carlo, Art Genève and the like have found their footing with collectors because of their manageable size, the established players have not thrown in the towel – nor stopped setting the agenda. And in London, this role clearly falls to Frieze Week.

In order to remain relevant, established fairs must constantly evolve by adding new sections or staging themed shows. Frieze has always been skilled at this and it often anticipates trends that later sweep through the programming at museums and galleries.

This year it is debuting Woven, a section dedicated to textile art. Interestingly, to move the discussion away from the assumption that such works are often a feminist statement, curator Cosmin Costinas (of Hong Kong’s Para Site) has set out to use them as part of a discussion on post-colonialism. It’s a smart and relevant approach.

And if we do want to talk about size, Frieze suits me just fine: it’s big enough to feel like an international draw (and offer curious visitors bang for their buck) and small enough to see everything in one or two afternoons. Clearly those who bemoan its overwhelming nature have never been to, say, a construction-material or bathroom-fittings fair in a sprawling German messe. And, anyway, there is always good catering for the weary.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Hong Kong

Show of force

Large numbers of ordinary people are expected to take to the streets of Hong Kong today – during a public holiday and in defiance of a police ban – to express their dissatisfaction with Beijing. Today is an opportunity for the city’s disgruntled residents to spoil the global media coverage of the People’s Republic of China’s 70th anniversary celebrations: Beijing’s display of military might could well be pitted against Hong Kong’s mass dissent for coverage – expect chaos to beat choreography. Hong Kong is teetering on the edge as police and radical protesters prepare for an escalation in violent street clashes. At this stage, authorities will expect a repeat of the by now familiar scenes involving tear gas, petrol bombs, bricks and rubber bullets. But tonight could be even darker.

Image: Evgeniy Ivanov

Culture / Russia

Behind the scenes

After years of pressure from the film industry, Russia’s Ministry of Culture and the Cinema Fund (the state film-funding body) has announced the creation of a database to log government investments in films and TV shows. These details have hitherto been kept under wraps.

Not only will this allow Russians to find out how much taxpayer money is being spent on such productions but also whether the government affords preferential treatment to certain directors or favours propaganda or projects with an ideological slant. It’s a win for film-makers and audiences, and a step towards greater transparency. But it’s not a total coup because the real question remains unknown: how much does the government spend making sure that some films don’t get made?

Image: Slideshow

Design / New York

Sit up and listen

At 86 years old, Portugal’s Álvaro Siza remains a global force in creating architecture that's not only grand but thoughtful too. As the Pritzker prize winner’s Manhattan tower, 611 West 56 St, rises steadily into the sky he’s gifted its public lobby a smaller design masterpiece. Sculpted in Portuguese Estremoz marble and African sapele wood, the Hell’s Kitchen Bench takes inspiration in form and scale from the elegant tower and will provide the perfect perch for visitors to the building. Empowered by an initiative from Portugal’s First Stone programme that’s all about showcasing the nation’s natural building assets, we’re glad to see Siza still applying his creative genius to the more intimate aspects of his buildings. Providing a perfect place to pause in a frenetic city is important and this bench is a sign of a generous view of urban living.

Image: ALAMY

Transport / Washington

One for the road

Washington’s transit agency tightened the purse strings in 2016, limiting late-night services to bring down routine maintenance costs. But mayor Muriel E Bowser is imploring the metro’s board to extend service hours again (beyond 01.00 on weekends), expressing concern for the city’s night-time economy. Her administration needs to show that late-night services are a boon for city businesses and not a cost that should be cut. London and Melbourne, which both introduced 24-hour transit (on some parts of the network) in recent years, have seen consumers spend more locally as a result, which could provide justification for the DC move. In London the night-tube scheme is said to have contributed £190m (€214.6m) to the economy last year. And if trains at 03.00 allow residents to kick on for a few more drinks, then cheers to that.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

Grayson Perry: ‘Super Rich Interior Decoration’

Robert Bound is joined by Louisa Buck and Ossian Ward to decipher the wit and politics in Grayson Perry’s new show at Victoria Miro.

Monocle Films / Belgium

Belgium: state of the nation

With its liberal and energetic approach to diplomacy, and a growing influence in art and sport, Belgium has plenty to offer on the world stage.


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