Thursday. 17/10/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

The edge of the canvas

Be it London, Berlin or New York, galleries and artists are great at getting in first when it comes to finding – and subsequently reviving – down-at-heel neighbourhoods. Ambitious installations demand large spaces and such things are hard to come by in city centres, where rents are high.

In Paris, a brand-new project is pushing further beyond the city limits than most. Komunuma, which opens this weekend, is settling in often tough banlieues beyond the peripherique: the ring road that encircles the city centre. This new cluster of four commercial galleries, a foundation and an exhibition space is taking over a huge former chemical plant; the aim is to entice people to the northeast area of Romainville.

“It’s just a question of opening the minds of Parisians,” says Gallery Jocelyn Wolff director Sandrine Djerouet, in a report you can read in the November issue of Monocle, on newsstands from today. “There’s a lot of foot traffic in the Marais, it’s true. But it’s mostly tourists visiting museums, not private galleries.”

Finance / Tokyo

Bad day at the office

Wednesday could prove expensive for the Tokyo-based SoftBank Group as it announced plans to pump $5bn (€4.5bn) into financing the parent company of loss-making office-sharing firm WeWork. The funds will prop up the co-working giant (for the time being at least), which recorded a net loss of $1.9bn (€1.7bn) in 2018. WeWork’s exorbitant valuation has long been akin to that of a technology firm – rather than a property and office-rental outfit – and has long felt unfathomable and off kilter. These concerns came home to roost in the run-up to a failed IPO, which was postponed in late September. The coming months will see whether WeWork can put in the overtime, conquer its cash crunch and convince SoftBank that it’s worth the investment.

Geopolitics / Venezuela

Rights and wrongs

The UN General Assembly will decide who gets a coveted seat on the Human Rights Council today – and Venezuela’s candidacy is causing a stir. Alongside Brazil, Venezuela was originally running unchallenged for two vacant seats before Costa Rica announced its bid to be part of the 47-member body. But Venezuela’s questionable rights record under president Nicolás Maduro is reason enough to prevent its accession, says Simon Adams, executive director of New York NGO the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCRP). “Venezuela is unfit to serve,” he says. “It’s been involved in undermining human rights around the world. The Human Rights Council’s integrity and credibility are at a tipping point; having Venezuela there would send the wrong message.” Today’s decision will reveal whether the Assembly agrees with the GCRP’s damning verdict.

Publishing / Frankfurt

More power to print

The annual five-day Frankfurt Book Fair opened to a buoyant reception yesterday. Its 7,500 exhibitors – plus agents, authors, publishers and press – are evidence of a positivity in the print industry that seemed utterly impossible just a few years back (though we’ve never been wooed by an e-reader here at Monocle). Book sales are stabilising but many in the Frankfurt Messe have an eye on acquiring the rights to material that can help them in the booming audiobook market, sales of which surged 43 per cent in the UK alone last year. As the fair opened its CEO, Juergen Boos, delivered a few words on the bullish market and spoke to Nobel prize-winning author Olga Tokarczuk about how literature has the power to unite people and speak on their behalf when politicians aren’t listening. Yet more evidence, then, that the print industry is turning the page.

Design / London

Going, going strong

The current talk in London’s creative circles tends to linger on the subject of European talent leaving the city as a result of Brexit. But when it comes to selling European design in the UK capital, the mood couldn’t be better. Many items going under the hammer at Christie’s and Phillips auction houses this week are expected to sell for six-figure sums; they include works by Italian mid-century maestros Carlo Mollino and Gio Ponti. Today we’ll be watching what happens to an incredibly rare collection of work by Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld, commissioned for the London home of UK modernist architect Brian Housden. Seeing these colourful and adventurous pieces from yesteryear on the block at Christie’s will remind Londoners that international collaboration can be a powerful creative force; the city’s best days for design shouldn’t be consigned to the past.

M24 / Tall Stories

Metelkova, Ljubljana

We visit a collection of buildings in the Slovenian capital with an intriguing history and an equally compelling present. Metelkova, once a military stronghold, now exists as a countercultural epicentre and, although it’s officially a squat, is actively supported by the mayor and city council.

Monocle films / Porto

Making it in Porto

Portugal’s second city is close to the country’s manufacturing heart and that’s why so many designers have made it their home. We meet some of the bright minds in town.

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