Thursday. 17/12/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Pastures new

Museums have long taken up residence off the beaten track. Isolated and surrounded by nature, some of the more cutting-edge institutions have sought to turn the whole experience – the journey, the slowed-down focus of a captive audience, the surroundings themselves – into part of the experience. But for a commercial gallery, taking up a rural patch might have been considered a more audacious bet – until recently, that is.

People have rediscovered the countryside this year and footfall also seems less fundamental as some potential collectors are deciding to weather the pandemic outside of city centres. This week, London-based gallery Cadogan Contemporary announced that it will open a new space (pictured) in Hampshire, southeast of the capital, in April next year.

It’s not the first gallery to make the jump to the greener pastures: global gallery behemoth Hauser & Wirth, for example, opened an outpost in Somerset in 2014. Cadogan’s decision doesn’t seem quite as experimental: the new venue will provide more room at a significantly lower cost than its home in South Kensington. The hope is that this new space will not only attract a local buyer base but also entice collectors from further afield to seek a glimpse of the English pastoral idyll. Provincial art, it seems, isn’t such a pejorative term after all.

Diplomacy / USA

State of the union

The US presidential transition gathered momentum this week as the electoral college officially designated Joe Biden as president-elect. Vladimir Putin congratulated Biden on Tuesday – one of the last heads of state in the world to do so – while Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken (pictured), will make his first visit to the State Department today to meet incumbent Mike Pompeo. The meeting is expected to last for just 15 minutes but it nevertheless marks Pompeo’s first formal recognition that Biden won November’s election. The Trump stalwart withheld that admission when asked by reporters just a few weeks ago. It’s a positive development but the erosion of faith in US democracy will take some restoring in the new year. As Nanjala Nyabola, a writer living in Nairobi, told us in Monocle’s December/January issue: “You can’t be the custodian of democracy when you’ve made such an ass of yourself.”

Defence / Afghanistan

Path to peace

Even Afghanistan’s most optimistic observers are sceptical about whether proposed talks between the government and the Taliban can yield lasting peace. Not only have previous back-channel discussions failed to stem violence but US troops, who have been a constant presence in the war-torn nation since 2001, are also leaving. Though US lawmakers have sought to limit the Trump administration’s withdrawal – the White House this week threatened to veto a defence bill that does just that – the reality is that Trump is not alone.

“The Pentagon’s top generals have accepted that they have done as much as they can,” Paul Rogers, Open Democracy’s international security adviser, told The Monocle Minute. He added that the US departure leaves Nato with “little choice but to withdraw their own people, which is a gift to the Taliban and other armed groups”. After more than 20 years of conflict, Afghanistan is now being left to find a solution on its own.

Media / Global

Stop the press

The number of jailed journalists has reached a record high this year according to a report released this week by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The New York-based watchdog found that 274 journalists have been put behind bars in the past 12 months with the highest numbers in China, followed by Turkey (pictured), Egypt and Saudi Arabia. There are manifold reasons behind these unprecedented numbers but the pandemic has been a key contributing factor. “We’ve seen a lot of blowback on the press when it comes to reporting on numbers that are not in line with official figures,” the CPJ’s advocacy director Courtney Radsch tells The Monocle Minute. “Journalists were also targeted for reporting unfavourably on governmental action.” She adds that Donald Trump’s presidency has also had an indirect impact. “We have seen a significant increase in accusations of fake news,” she says. “Trump’s rhetoric has been adopted by countries around the world and has been translated into legislation that restricts press freedom.”

Transport / France

The wheel thing

Paris was at the forefront of a cycling revolution this year, creating nearly 650km of new bike lanes after the first lockdown. Now the French capital is incentivising families to adopt bikes as a means of transport through Véligo Location, a programme developed by Île-de-France Mobilités, the authority that oversees mobility in the Greater Paris area. Residents were already able to hire e-bikes for between €40 and €80 a month, which includes insurance, maintenance, bike equipment and even safety training. From next year this will include e-cargo bikes specifically modified to carry children. Other European cities, such as Berlin, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, have already designated the cargo bike as a safe way to travel together as a family. It’s a powerful initiative, since the way to cleaner mobility starts with forming greener commuting habits – and what better way to start than as a child, sitting comfortably in the cargo area with the city in front of you?

M24 / Monocle on Design

The year in design and architecture

A look back at the year that was in design and architecture, featuring conversations with creative director Ilse Crawford and designer and author Julia Watson. Plus: Venice Biennale 2020 curator Hashim Sarkis.

Monocle Films / Global

Japanese gift-wrapping: Lesson 5

If you’re looking to up your wrap game this year, we recommend furoshiki – a Japanese approach that’s stood the test of time for centuries. This cotton square is especially handy when wrapping soft or oddly shaped gifts. For an indulgent bundle, we suggest Arpenteur wool jacket, soft corduroy De Bonne Facture trousers and a cosy beanie from Organics Basics. Your loved ones deserve a treat. Find your perfect gift at The Monocle Shop.

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