Saturday 24 July 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 24/7/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday


Behind the mask

On Monday, most coronavirus restrictions were dropped in England in what the press, and many in government, heralded as “Freedom Day”. It comes as case numbers climb ever higher and with predictions that we could hit 100,000 a day very soon. But here in London most people seem to be happy with the move, judging by the busy streets, packed cafés and almost-bustling shops. Yet the unwinding, the return to “normal”, also comes with caveats, both official and self-imposed. Public transport, Uber and hospitals have all said that masks must stay on faces. And even in settings where they are no longer legally required (shops, for example) they have not been totally abandoned. They are seen by many as a simple courtesy, a way of nodding to a common good. They will remain for a long time.

But is this commitment also an indication that we no longer have our old appetite for risk? If the government says that we can abandon our masks, why don’t we? It’s hard to know precisely what’s happening just yet. People, for example, say that the young are already back to their old ways but I don’t think you can guess who has been dented or changed by the past months just by knowing when they were born. On the London Underground, the mask refuseniks are a disparate bunch: a middle-aged man in a pinstriped suit, two men in decorator’s overalls, a young woman – although her boyfriend is masked. And is this group mask-free because they have done any kind of mental risk assessment? A neighbour says that his girlfriend avoids putting one on only because it smears her make-up.

But there is a nervousness at play. The way that the travel rules have chopped and changed has dented people’s attempts to be mobile. The complexities of the testing regime for foreign travel have not helped either. People have become wary that until the plane takes off it can all go to pot.

I also feel it. When plans are made, I dampen excitement, aware of how many have frayed at the last minute in recent months. I pack bags not entirely convinced that they will be going anywhere. I make dinner plans knowing that a ping from the coronavirus-tracing app might scupper everything. Perhaps it’s not that we have become risk-averse but rather that we have become disappointment-aware. Acknowledging that “this might not happen” has become an insurance policy to get us past any feelings of disappointment.

We will all look back at some point and see more clearly how the pandemic changed us. Because even for those who were never sick, never lost anyone and kept their jobs, it has shaped us all. Just as we cannot see how subtly the sun hitting our skin ages us, we have often failed to notice the subtler ways that the pandemic has touched our lives. Even the shruggers, the maskless young woman, the denier – it’s affected everyone. But, once you know this, you can take the odd cancelled event, the pings, the forms and the tests in your stride, and face risk again with a seasoned countenance. In the end, we will remember that it can be oddly easier to turn to face a modicum of danger than bed down with endless disappointments.


Fringe benefits

The past year or so has shown many of us the value of exploring the outer reaches of our urban sprawls in search of greener vistas, more space and a village-like feel (writes Louis Harnett O’Meara). Now it’s time to take this fresh enthusiasm for the peripheries to a new city, as travel opens up again. Which all means that the newly translated ‘Greater Paris Guide’ couldn’t be better timed. Complete with marigold-coloured page edges and a waterproof exterior, the guide is packed with suggestions for the best galleries and theatres to visit, restaurants in which to eat, shops to step into and activities that will take you beyond the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and out towards the edges of Greater Paris’s 20 districts.

We’d advise you to start your tour with the city’s western extremities. Begin with the cultural institutions that pepper the 23km stretch between Centre Pompidou and the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a former royal residence. Lesser-known gems include the Musée Albert Kahn and its Japanese gardens (pictured), the Jeu de Paume photography museum and the Cité de la Céramique, an 1824 exhibition space filled with more than 50,000 examples of beautiful earthenware. Head to the rustic setting of Parc naturel régional du Vexin Français for some fine dining at L’Or Q’Idée, which earned a Michelin star in 2019. At sunset, go to Les Buttes du Parisis – or “The Rooftop”, as the guide has dubbed this patch – and enjoy the views from the grassy plateau of Butte des Châtaigniers as evening falls over the City of Lights. Bonne nuit.


Home cooking

In ordinary times, the Olympic Games bring athletes together – on the sporting field and in the dining room (writes Kieran Pender). Typically, representatives of 205 nations would mingle and dine on local and international cuisine in cavernous halls at the athletes’ village. But at the Tokyo 2020 Games, which kicked off yesterday, athletes are under strict instructions to eat and leave, with no mingling allowed. Many Olympians, cautious about being ruled out by coronavirus, are staying away entirely, eating food supplied by their own national teams in their rooms.

The South Korean delegation has sent 14 chefs to Tokyo, who are preparing more than 400 meal boxes a day from a specialist kitchen off-site; bulgogi and kimchi are menu staples. The country’s decision to withdraw from the organisers’ dining programme, which it attributed to concerns over radiation-contaminated food from Fukushima, has annoyed the hosts. However, the South Koreans have been cooking for their athletes since the 2008 Games. Good kimchi must be hard to find abroad.

The Australians, meanwhile, have underscored their priorities by bringing a Melbourne-born, Japan-based barista into the village to make flat whites for the athletes. (Melburnians are known as gold-medal-winning coffee snobs).

For athletes who do participate in village dining, Games organisers are trying to offer a taste of Tokyo. The venue’s cafeterias are expected to serve up to 48,000 meals a day and as athletes are unable to dine in Tokyo’s top restaurants, chefs want to offer them the best udon, ramen and wagyu around. “I feel that it’s a lot of responsibility for us,” admitted F&B head honcho Tsutomu Yamane. Indeed.


What lies beneath

Over the years, French cartoonist Lucas Harari’s drawings have gained a reputation among architecture buffs, horror aficionados and illustration lovers alike. There’s a good reason for that. His first graphic novel, Swimming in Darkness, a thriller about an architecture student who quits school and ventures into a Peter Zumthor-designed complex deep in the Swiss Alps, is equal parts stylish and suspenseful. Here, Harari tells us about his favourite caffeine fix, belting out the Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack and what happens when he gets too liberal with his snooze button.

What news source do you wake up to?
One of the first things I do when I wake up is turn on the radio to France Culture. On good days, it’s 08.00 and I’ll make coffee at the same time. On other days, when I’ve snoozed my alarm clock three times in a row and missed the beginning, I put on the podcast version. Some days I leave it playing, so I’ll be off all day by half an hour or so.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Coffee, coffee, coffee. I don’t eat in the mornings but without coffee I wouldn’t be able to do anything.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
It really depends but I’m the type of person who can listen to the same thing over and over for weeks. Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Nina Simone, Tom Waits and The Beatles are some of the usual suspects. And also French singers such as Georges Brassens or Léo Ferré. I’m pretty old school.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
My singing is very off-key so in the shower I really let go. I’ll put the Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack on full blast and scream at the top of my lungs – you can imagine what that sounds like.

Newspaper that you turn to?
I subscribe to Mediapart. It is a very committed independent online newspaper with a lot of long-term investigations.

Favourite bookshop?
This question is almost impossible to answer because I have so many. In Paris, I love Philippe le Libraire. It feels like a messy cave in there and I love to rummage for hours looking for rarities. I also have to mention the bookshop at Arts Factory, a gallery that specialises in contemporary graphic art.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
I listen to the radio a lot, especially when I’m in an intense and long period of drawing.Les Pieds sur Terre on France Culture, for example, is one of my favourite programmes.

Who’s your cultural obsession?
I tend to become completely obsessed with an artist or an author. I’ll read everything they’ve written, watch their interviews, find monographs and read their biography. Right now, I’m in my Paul Auster period. Before, it was French cartoonist Ted Benoit and, before that, Luis Barragán, a Mexican architect.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
Just before I go to sleep I try to read. I find it’s a calmer, more introspective transition into the silence of night.


Close harmony

‘Giseke’, Bluestaub. If you’re looking for the perfect chilled-out soundtrack for a sundowner, something relaxed but with a backbone, background music that’s not actually just background music – this album should be your go-to. Bluestaub is a German producer living in Paris and his new album is a wonderful experiment in funky soul and its more contemporary, rhythmic spin-offs. Single “Whoa Wait” has a distinct vintage vibe; “Movin’” is an impossibly smooth affair.

‘Objects of Desire’, Clare Sestanovich. In the title story of Sestanovich’s accomplished debut collection, a woman who lives in a small apartment with her boyfriend and his cat feels a burning craving to speak to her ex. Some of these 11 stories sizzle – there are fleeting encounters, long-awaited visits – while some others subtly explore the blunt pain of yearning. In this wry and intelligent book, the New Yorker editor observes the intimate, complicated desire that animates the contemporary lives of women, no matter their age.

‘Doyle Wham x 14 Cavendish’. With a focus on photographic trends from Africa and its diaspora, London-based gallery Doyle Wham has launched a new group exhibition featuring four snappers from the continent. Visitors to the show will not only enjoy works from the likes of Gabon’s Yannis Davy Guibinga and Kenya’s Staice Shitanda, but also the stunning confines of 14 Cavendish: a heritage listed 16th-century mansion elegantly restored as an event space by architects Walker Bushe.


Your isles only

Many people don’t know that Cape Verde, Portuguese for “green cape”, isn’t actually very verdant. “It’s funny because we don’t get a lot of rain so it’s actually quite arid,” says António Monteiro drily. He’s the deputy editor of the Expresso das Ilhas, a weekly founded in 2001 in the tiny capital of Praia. “As an independent paper, we think it’s really important to provide people with informative, unbiased reporting.”

But times haven’t been easy for the Cape Verdean press: although the country boasts exceptionally high levels of media freedom, the pandemic has taken a toll on many of its major publications. “Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen newspapers come and go, and this year has certainly made that worse,” says Monteiro. “But we’re still here. A lot of publications ended up going digital but we’ve carried on printing.”

What’s the big story this week?
We’ve been closely following a story involving congressman and lawyer Amadeo Oliveira. His client Arlindo Teixeira was on house arrest after being found guilty of homicide and sentenced to nine years in prison, and Olivera has been accused of helping him leave the country. Following a request from the public prosecutor’s office, the National Assembly authorised Oliveira’s detention so that he could explain himself. As of this week, he’s currently being held in remand.

Favourite photo?
It almost never rains in Cape Verde and when it does the season only lasts for three months, so we often have to prepare for all kinds of scenarios on the agricultural front. My favourite recent photo is in an article about the government’s agricultural predictions for this year. It’s a picture of a green valley with a stream running through it.

Any events on the horizon?
The state-of-the-nation debate is going to be taking place next week so we’re definitely going to be covering that. Our current government is relatively new, so I’m not sure what it’ll be like this year. From experience, though, I can tell you that we can expect both sides to engage in a fair amount of discussion.


Bright vision

The shades of choice for those basking on Italy’s beaches every summer are rather appropriately named. Persol, derived from the Italian per il sole, or “for the sun”, was established in 1917 and its famed frames have been donned by everyone from holiday-makers to movie stars across the Bel Paese and the world. Designer and Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson is now building on that heritage for summer 2021.

Working with the Italian heritage brand under the banner of his JW Anderson label, the Irish-born designer has reimagined Persol’s 649 and 0009 styles. Collaboration on the former will see each new pair of glasses made using acetate offcuts from Persol’s Turinese production line, giving new life to potential fabrication waste and every owner a one-of-a-kind item. Meanwhile, the 0009, famous for its four-lens frame, is available in a range of two-tone combinations, including a playful blue-and-pink mix and a sleek black-and-white option.

And while both styles will be donned on the likes of the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany’s Viareggio this summer, the shades will enjoy more than just a moment in the sun – expect this collaboration to be another timeless addition to Persol’s covetable collection.;


High praise

When sunshine melts the snow on central Colorado’s slopes, the Aspen Art Museum at the foot of its namesake ski area hosts one of the most popular art parties west of the Rockies: Artcrush (writes Nic Monisse). This year’s event is the 16th iteration of the week-long celebration and it culminates in a gala headlined by a Sotheby’s auction of 10 contemporary artworks on 6 August.

This year’s lots include works by Hungarian-American artist Rita Ackermann and Germany’s Florian Krewer. Ackermann’s “Mama, Gamble” (Lot 3), a painting in her trademark colourful style, is up for grabs and expected to go for $300,000 (€255,000). Krewer’s “Night Fire” (Lot 2) will also be a hit on the night, with estimates starting at $30,000 (€25,500). All works have been donated to the museum, and 100 per cent of their sale will go towards artistic and educational programmes for the community.

“We are the only art museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums on Colorado’s Western Slope,” says Jeff Murcko, the museum’s director of external affairs. “[Proceeds from the sale] help us to provide access to art for individuals of all ages and backgrounds in a historically underrepresented region of our state.”

Purchasing the works, therefore, could be considered a selfless act of philanthropy. But if you still want to make it about you, might we suggest bidding for a sitting with artist Catherine Opie (Lot 6)? With an estimate starting from $40,000 (€34,000), the highest bidder will get the opportunity to sit at Catherine’s studio in downtown Los Angeles for their very own signed photographic pigment print. Say cheese.

Images: Alamy, Courtesy of Sotheby’s. Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon


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