Thursday. 10/10/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Something to scream about

Last week I visited Oslo on a family trip. I expected to be met with chilly weather and exorbitant alcohol bills – and I was. But, to my surprise, I saw lots of good art too.

There’s plenty of chatter about the city’s cultural scene at the moment: the Oslo Art Biennale hosts its second edition later this month, while the privately owned Kistefos Sculpture Park (just outside Oslo) has opened The Twist, a spectacular gallery designed by Bjarke Ingels Group. Next year will see the unveiling of a vast national museum – the biggest art gallery in the Nordics – and the reopening of the Munch Museum, a towering waterfront tribute to the nation’s most famous painter. Ask a Norwegian what to see in the country’s capital and there’s a good chance they’ll direct you to one of the host of new galleries.

Wealthy nations are often thought to be trying to build culture by engaging in a sort of global arts race – think of the Abu Dhabi Louvre or the National Museum of Qatar. Is Norway a Scandi equivalent? Unlike some of its Gulf counterparts, the country does have a rich history of artists, from Edvard Munch to sculptor Gustav Vigeland, but its raft of new institutions are certainly helping to give the city a fresh edge.

Defence / East Asia

Show of unity

This week one of China’s newest and most advanced destroyers sets sail for Tokyo. No, not as a signal of aggression but rather of growing bilateral ties between the former foes. Despite ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the pair have found common ground in opposing the US president’s quixotic economic policies. China’s Taiyuan 131 destroyer will arrive in Japan next week bearing a helicopter and a 200-strong crew. It’s expected that the ship will host an onboard reception for representatives from other nations involved in the naval review, including Australia and India. The invitation follows an April visit from a Japanese Suzutsuki destroyer to the sea off China’s Shandong province during a parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Chinese navy’s foundation.

Transport / Austria

Lighting up the dark

Cheap and cheerless airlines of Europe beware: Austrian Railways (otherwise known as ÖBB) is upgrading its fast-growing after-dark Nightjet service to include a Brussels-to-Vienna route in time for January. Overnight connections between Berlin, Hamburg, Zürich and the Belgian capital are also in the works. CEO Andreas Matthä has invested heavily since taking over in 2016: he’s spent €40m in the process of buying 42 sleeper trains and a further 15 Deutsche Bahn sleeper trains that are being converted.

It’s clear that he has (rightly) recognised an appetite among passengers for slower, smarter and statelier means of getting around, a particular concern as some customers begin to question the carbon footprint of unnecessary air travel. Next stop? The Netherlands. A Dutch service will be pulling into the station come 2021.

Business / Singapore

Cashing in

Yesterday the World Economic Forum announced Singapore as having the world's most competitive economy, knocking the US into second place ahead of Hong Kong (in spite of its recent political strife), the Netherlands and Switzerland. “It’s a bit of a surprise,” says Pippa Malmgren, former special assistant on economic policy to George W Bush, of the chosen winner. “Singapore has always struggled to produce entrepreneurs itself – however, favourable tax policies and an open economy have encouraged many businesses to move there.” It’s a bad sign for Donald Trump’s protectionist agenda; toning down the trade wars would be a start when it comes to reclaiming top spot next year.

Design / Berlin

Bauhaus and beyond

Berlin Design Week kicks off today and will honour the centenary of the Bauhaus movement, celebrating its progressive spirit rather than merely wallowing in nostalgia. A key event at the city’s Kulturforum will come from the State of Design collective, bringing together everything from examples of future thinking in German industrial design to an interactive virtual-reality installation (inspired by Bauhaus teacher Oskar Schlemmer’s stage experiments). It’s more challenging, conceptual and cerebral works such as these that separate the event from its more commercially minded cousins in other cities. It’s also what’s helping Berlin Design Week carve out an important niche on an increasingly busy industry calendar.

Radio / Foreign Desk Explainer

The Kurds: the latest betrayal

This week Donald Trump announced that he would not stop Turkish troops entering northern Syria, opening a path to the Kurdish people who live there. In doing so he allowed history to repeat itself: the Kurds are no strangers to being forgotten, ignored and openly betrayed by the international community. Andrew Mueller explores a shameful history.

Monocle Films / Czech Republic

Speciality retail: Prague

Prague butcher Naše maso has married traditional know-how with contemporary design to create a culinary destination in the Czech capital. This month’s specialist retailer tells us about his special cuts and meaty passions.

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