Friday. 9/4/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Venetian bind

People in Venice have been calling for the regulation of the way in which private homes can be rented by non-residents for a while. But few would have expected that the legislation would involve curbing exhibition spaces rather than Airbnbs. A recent measure approved by the municipality stipulates that private residences cannot be used as venues for shows that last longer than 180 days (including installation and dismantling). It’s a clear hurdle for any of the satellite exhibitions of the Venice Biennale, which usually run for about six months and are notoriously complicated to set up. And that’s not all: there must also be an interval of one year between exhibitions, meaning that no private-home-turned-venue would be able to run programming for the biennale’s art and architecture events, which take place in alternate years.

This matters for an event like the Venice Biennale: visiting nations that don’t have the luxury of a permanent pavilion in the areas of Giardini and Arsenale often use palazzos outside the official grounds for their exhibitions. At a time when the cultural industry is embattled (the Architecture Biennale itself was cancelled last year due to the pandemic and is now scheduled to open to the public on 22 May), it’s hard to understand the reasoning behind the measure. Perhaps the objective was to shift the exhibition onto its official grounds but this is the wrong event to take issue with here: this is a small city, so there is only so much room for sprawl. This is no Salone del Mobile, where off-site exhibitions have grown to an often overwhelming degree across Milan.

And while this is a blow to Biennale-associated businesses, this resolution is also bad for visitors. Being allowed behind the huge wooden doors of a private palazzo is one of the joys of going to Venice during the show; it’s a chance to see something that usually hides away from one’s grasp. Many of my favourite memories of the Biennale take place on a small balcony just outside of one of the many private opening soirées, looking at the silent calli below. Those moments are memorable because they feel precious and special – and it will be hard to let that go.

Image: Alamy

Elections / South Korea

City blocked

South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s (pictured) ruling Democratic Party yesterday lost two key mayoral elections – Seoul and Busan – in a landslide to opposition conservatives. Park Young-sun, the ruling party’s Seoul candidate and a rising star who would have become the capital’s first female mayor, accepted the defeat “with a humble heart”. But it was the national climate that dragged her down: Moon’s party has been freefalling to record lows in opinion polls amid a series of political scandals, soaring house prices and rising inequality. The opposition People Power Party now has a chance to prove itself ahead of presidential elections next year. “The two mayors are likely to pursue administrative reforms based on their ideology of rational conservatism and will be central to the party’s efforts to change the national regime,” Yongkyun Kim, associate director of government consultancy GR Korea, tells The Monocle Minute. But, he adds, “The opposition party does not have guaranteed public support if they make critical mistakes.”

Image: YouTube/Basilio Silva

Culture / Cuba

Take to the beats

The song “Patria y Vida” (fatherland and life) turns on its head Fidel Castro’s famous slogan “patria o muerte” (fatherland or death). It’s a clear critique of the country’s communist government and its faltering attempts to open up the economy. That’s why authorities want to clamp down on the track and its video (pictured). On Sunday in Havana, an attempt was made to arrest Maykel Osorbo, a rapper who appears on the song, but it was thwarted when crowds intervened. He was also arrested twice in March.

The piquant rap single – which brings together some of the Caribbean island’s most famous musicians, including Gente de Zona – has made plenty of waves. But it’s drawn a rebuke from Cuba’s official newspaper, Granma, and president Miguel Díaz-Canel, who object to lines that include, “No more lies. My people demand liberty. No more doctrines.” It’s not the first time that Cuba has looked to stifle artists and in 2018 the San Isidro Movement – comprising musicians, intellectuals and journalists – was formed to fight for freedom of expression. The latest debacle proves that there’s some way to go.

Image: Getty Images

Urbanism / Karachi

Branching out

Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, has planted more than 14,000 saplings since February thanks to a city hall-sponsored tree-planting drive. But researchers at Karachi University’s Institute of Environmental Studies say that it still isn’t enough to address the 50 per cent reduction in green canopy coverage between 2008 and 2019. Instead, the institute is calling for dedicated tree protection laws that ban felling, unless authorised by an expert committee. While such a measure would undoubtedly protect greenery in the public realm, it would need to be extended to be truly effective; cities across the globe are often seeing the most dramatic reductions in canopy cover on private land. Which begs the question: could anti-felling laws be extended to the private realm to ensure that canopy cover is preserved? If implemented, it would undoubtedly help to keep our cities greener and push designers and planners to work more closely within existing conditions. Now that’s a challenge worth rising to.

Image: Shutterstock

Hospitality / UK

Thought for food

From Monday, hospitality establishments in England will be allowed to reopen to customers (albeit outside only) for the first time in 2021. It marks a tentative return to normality for an industry that has been forced to find alternative revenue streams over the past year: we’ve seen fine-dining establishments resort to offering takeaways, European-style terraces pop up in cities and the emergence of DIY food boxes that allow kitchen novices to create restaurant-quality food. But as normality returns, will food boxes continue? “They’re not only an additional revenue stream for operators but also a great marketing tool,” says Adam Hyman of UK consultancy Code Hospitality. “Especially to reach customers outside your immediate area.” As for a continuation of alfresco dining on the roads, “It’s up to councils to be more flexible and lenient when it comes to outdoor set-ups,” says Hyman. For the sake of the industry – and our own wellbeing – here’s hoping they heed the call.

Listen to Hyman’s take on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Montana Fogg

Sebastian Fogg is the co-founder of restaurant consultancy Montana Fogg, launched alongside his partner Laura Montana in 2017. Having launched top restaurants in London, Los Angeles and New York, Montana Fogg advises a host of business at all stages, from how to get started to changing direction entirely. This week, Sebastian tells us what the industry has learned from the past year and offers advice for the hospitality industry as many eateries prepare to reopen.

Monocle Films / Global

Copenhagen: healthy city growth

The concept of kolonihave, a blissful combination of an allotment and a summer house, has shaped Danish cities since the late 17th century. Today avid growers convene in these colonies to find a peaceful place to commune with nature – and a community of diverse characters.

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