Monday. 19/7/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Megan Gibson

Taking liberty

If you happen to live in England, you will have woken up today on what the UK newspapers have taken to calling “freedom day”: when almost all coronavirus-related restrictions have been officially lifted. I live in London but, to be honest, I don’t particularly feel all that “free”. I’ve just spent the past week at home with my toddler, who was self-isolating due to a positive coronavirus case at nursery (she’s fine). And I’m not alone: the first week of July saw nearly 900,000 people being asked to self-isolate after a surge in cases caused by the Delta variant.

The ripple effect has been tremendous. Health authorities have issued warnings about the number of health workers unable to work due to self-isolation requirements, which is affecting patient care and adding to the backlog of treatment. Union representatives have flagged that manufacturing sites and factories are at risk of closure due to the number of employees unable to make it to work. The same goes for pubs and restaurants, where large numbers of staff have also been pinged with the dreaded self-isolation notice. And let’s not forget, this has all taken place before the lifting of restrictions.

Cases are expected to continue to rise and could reach as many as 100,000 a day. And, with that, the number of people self-isolating will increase in turn. This is obviously necessary to prevent further infections but it also means that a lot of people will be self-isolating who don’t actually need to. While there is a plan to allow children and those who are double-vaccinated to skip self-isolating, it won’t come into effect for weeks. Why the lag time between dropping restrictions and tweaking the rules? Who knows? The fact that the UK government didn’t anticipate the chaos we’re currently dealing with is another example of how it would rather chase meaningless headlines about freedom than actually improve people’s lives.

Image: Alamy

Politics / Indonesia

Ruled out

Indonesia has ratified a new autonomy law for Papua that grants its restive eastern province increased funding for economic development, healthcare and education. The legislation’s goal is to “accelerate development in Papua and see Papuans prosper,” said Indonesian home affairs minister Tito Karnavian – but it’s notable that the text was passed without much consultation from Papuans themselves. As a result, the bill has received strong criticism from activists who have been campaigning for decades for the province’s right to self-determination. Protests broke out in Jakarta and Jayapura, the region’s capital, after the law was passed last Thursday, prompting a series of arrests by police. Despite the promise of autonomy, the failure to bring Papuans fully into the process has created an unshakable perception: that Jakarta is tightening its grip on the resource-rich province rather than surrendering control.

Image: 2021 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Culture / USA

Luck of the draw

In an effort to bolster exhibitions and research on prints, drawings and sketches, the Los Angeles-based Getty Foundation is awarding 19 American and international museums a series of grants totalling $1.55m (€1.3m). The initiative forms a part of the foundation’s Paper Project and should be well received in a sector that’s often overlooked.

“Although prints and drawings are at the historic core of many museum collections, they don’t often benefit from the spotlight of large exhibitions or glossy catalogues,” says Heather MacDonald, senior programme officer at the Getty Foundation. According to the institution, the money will mostly go toward helping understudied artists such as William Bache and Jacob Lawrence (pictured) and emerging or mid-career curators to gain greater visibility. Beneficiaries include the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, which is currently showing artist Betye Saar’s travel sketchbooks, and the National Gallery of Slovenia. Here’s hoping that the grants will help them gain recognition that’s not just on paper.

Image: Alamy

Business / Japan

Out of gear

You know that business is good when you have to apologise for being unable to keep up with demand. Such is the case for Japanese bicycle-parts manufacturer Shimano, which also happens to be celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. “We deeply apologise,” its president Taizo Shimano said in an interview with Nikkei Asia on the delays in providing supplies to bike manufacturers. Shimano’s production of components is predicted to have risen 50 per cent compared to 2019 – but it’s still not enough. The pandemic has encouraged people around the world to cycle, leading to sold-out bike shops and waiting lists for repairs, Shimano said that demand for parts had grown “explosively” and was expected to last at least through next year. Beyond that, he says that the end of the pandemic might remove the impetus for cycling – but it could well be replaced by the motivation to improve health instead. It’s a good time for bikes but Shimano needs to get pedalling to stay ahead of the peloton.

Image: 'Louis Bourgeois. Maladie de l'Amour', The Easton Foundation / ADAGP, Paris 2021

Tourism / Monaco

Sea views

As people flock to the beaches of Monaco for a bit of summer sun, some of the world’s biggest art players are hoping that they’ll also take some time out for shopping. The Francophone principality on the Côte d’Azur is renowned for being full of wealthy individuals and the hope is that they might just be looking to expand their collections. Switzerland’s Hauser & Wirth opened a huge space in Monaco (pictured) last month in a building designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners. Auction houses have also got in on the act. Christie’s Riviera: A Selling Exhibition – a sort of fine-dining experience with the option of buying art – was running at the Cipriani Monte Carlo restaurant until yesterday. Sotheby’s, meanwhile, has installed a temporary gallery for the summer that is selling about 30 works. Art institutions are clearly banking on Monaco for a revival of fortunes. Why throw away your money at the casino when you can walk away with a masterpiece?

M24 / The Menu

Success in challenging times

Victor Lugger, co-founder of the Big Mamma restaurant group, on success in difficult times and how to guarantee you have the staff you need. Plus, Zuza Zak’s new book about the rich culinary culture of the Baltic region.

Monocle Films / Finland

The home of the Finnish art scene

We tour the breathtaking studios of artists’ residence Lallukka in Helsinki, which hasn’t changed its purpose since it was completed in 1933. The landmark functionalist building offers spaces at low rents so that its tenants can focus on one thing: making art.

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