Wednesday. 13/10/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Courtesy of Frieze

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Display model

The physical return of Frieze to London this week is the latest telling sign that the art calendar is getting back on schedule. That said, we’ve now reached the stage in which it’s not enough for fairs to simply welcome a “return to normal”. Organisers have been keen to show that they have learned broader lessons over the past 18 months. For most fairs, these lessons comprise a newfound commitment to keeping a digital element alive, in parallel to the in-person event. Frieze is going beyond that.

In this important edition of London’s biggest art fair – also the first after Brexit, with all the logistical challenges that poses – Frieze has decided to launch an offsite gallery space at 9 Cork Street (pictured). The few of us who were able to see something in person for Frieze Week last year will remember that this same address was used for performances; now the organisation aims to make it available as a pop-up space for international exhibitors who want more room – and more time – than a regular booth in a tent in Regents Park affords.

It is around this historical stretch for art commerce in Mayfair that, in the absence of the main act last year, other galleries coming from abroad had sought out temporary spaces of their own to get some much-needed face-to-face time with clients. Some discovered that this off-site model actually suited them better. Frieze’s decision and ability to absorb this “splintering” trend by providing its own space to hire is a smart move. It reminds us that there are cannier and more meaningful ways to adapt to a changing market – and not all of them involve an online bid.

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Afghanistan

How to help

UN secretary-general António Guterres has warned that Afghanistan is near breaking point as world leaders from the G20 group of nations held a virtual meeting yesterday, hosted by Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, to consider the international community’s options. Many nations proposed emergency aid: an EU proposal of €700m brings its total offering to €1bn to help keep basic services running – but only via UN or independent aid organisations. The trouble is that the international community faces a major dilemma, particularly the West: just how much do you support, and thereby legitimise, a Taliban regime that you find abhorrent? Do you set conditions, such as improved women’s rights, in exchange for providing aid? Added to the challenge is that countries such as Russia and China advocate a policy of non-interference even in the case of the Taliban. While the international community and Taliban consider who will blink first, the one thing that’s clear is that ordinary Afghans face an increasingly desperate situation.

For more on the outcome of the G20 summit, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ today on Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Society / Hong Kong

Etched in history

On 4 June 1997, “The Pillar of Shame” (pictured), an eight-metre tall concrete sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt, was displayed for the first time in Hong Kong to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The statue, which depicts a mass of bodies representing those killed in the government crackdown, has been housed on the University of Hong Kong (HKU) campus for the past 24 years. That could end today.

Last week, members of the now-dissolved pro-democracy group that helped bring the statue to Hong Kong received a letter from the university’s law firm demanding its removal by 17.00 today, after which HKU would deem it “abandoned”. Galschiøt told Artnet News that he is the rightful owner of the artwork and has received no notice himself; he also condemned the order as an attempt to erase history. Wherever the sculpture ends up, the fact that even HKU is acquiescing to such curbs on artistic freedom is a worrying sign.

Image: Getty Images

Climate / Global

Weather eye

The 10th UN Global Climate Action awards, announced this week, aim to highlight practical examples of businesses tackling climate change, ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow next month. We highlight three very different award recipients.

Microsoft: Carbon-neutral since 2012, the technology giant is raising the bar by pledging to remove all the carbon that the company has emitted since its founding in 1975. It’s also supporting renewable-energy infrastructure in parts of the world that are suffering the most from climate change.

House of Baukjen: The London-based brand is the first fashion company to win the award. It has been recognised for offering customers rental and recycling options, and being carbon-negative across its supply chain. CEO Geoff van Sonsbeeck says that the trick has been to disrupt the fast-fashion model while maintaining profitability. “While our use of responsible production processes has cost more, we have recovered these costs elsewhere and by discounting less,” he tells The Monocle Minute.

ICA Gruppen: This Swedish food retailer’s commitment to curbing climate change includes influencing customer behaviour. It’s a pioneer in “nudging” customers to lower their footprint through their diets. The idea is to encourage habits towards greener options that are maintained even when they shop elsewhere.

Image: Getty Images

Tourism / Thailand

Open-and-shut case

Thailand has announced that it will fully reopen to vaccinated tourists from low-risk countries at the beginning of November – but don’t book your tickets just yet. The Thai government has been murky on the details, which has caused no small amount of frustration domestically. “We don’t know yet what the conditions for travel are,” Bangkok-based journalist Vincent Vichit-Vadakan told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “The prime minister said that there won’t be a quarantine but we don’t know what other rules will apply. Since the announcement, many have been questioning whether the country is really prepared for this plan. Do we have the level of vaccination that would allow for that to happen safely?” What is certain is that Bangkok is keen to open the borders as soon as possible; before the pandemic, tourism made up nearly 20 per cent of the country’s national income.

Image: Alamy

M24 / Tall Stories

Zina Dizengoff Square, Tel Aviv

We head to Tel Aviv to pay a visit to one of the city’s most famous public spaces.

Monocle Films / Armenia

Yerevan’s open doors

We shine a spotlight on entrepreneurship in Armenia. Yerevan’s boulevards are lined with magnificent Soviet architecture but venture beyond the imperious façades and you’ll find a busy start-up scene and well-funded art centres. Armenia shows how a small nation can benefit from building strong ties to its powerful diaspora.

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