Saturday 16 October 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 16/10/2021

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

On topic

Tune in for a sideways look at the ultimate sandcastle-building competition on Canada’s Atlantic Coast, an analysis of short-sleeved shirts in politics and Usual Suspects actor Gabriel Byrne on his favourite independent bookshops in both London and Maine. Plus: how to run a newspaper in Madeira. But first: Andrew Tuck is off to the fair.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Animal instincts

There are stories in the British newspapers of shortages in everything from fresh vegetables to butchers (but before you think that’s good news for Miss Piggy, it’s not: they will be shot and disposed of, if no sharp-knived men and women are found). Still, over breakfast at Fischer’s restaurant this week, my art friend from Berlin told me about a Europewide shortage that really is a worry. Apparently, there’s a scarcity of contemporary artworks over the €1m mark. During lockdown, the rich, fretting about their cash shrivelling like a gentleman’s downstairs in icy water, seemingly piled into purchasing art as never before and good galleries suddenly found their walls butt naked. I had a lot of these insane conversations this week. Because it’s Frieze Week and the artists and gallerists (and shoppers) are back in London. And, while it might be maddening in some respects, it’s also a hoot. We’ll head over to the fair’s marquees in a minute. But first another maddening thing: Linkedin.

Our managing editor, Tom, is the gatekeeper when we are hiring new staff. And we are hiring with ambition – foreign editor, fashion reporter, business editor, chauffeurs (I jest but I might ask). And, like lots of fools before us, we are trying to use Linkedin as one of the avenues to reach potential candidates. But wow, is it rubbish – or, as Tom eloquently put it, “poop”. The problem is that the platform is full of people who ignore all the details about the qualifications required for a position, or the fact that you need to send a covering letter, and just bounce you their CV. This week a man who works as a zookeeper (small animals section) applied for the role of foreign editor. Now, while he might have a network of contacts from all around the world, the fact that most of them are covered in scales or fur makes me wonder whether they would be of much use to us. And yes, it’s great that he speaks so many languages. But actually – and I really don’t mean this harshly – the fact that these include Raccoonese and Chipmunklish does cause me to pause on sending him a contract.

I hadn’t really noticed any shortages in our local supermarkets or corner shops but decided to survey the people around me at work. Sophie, our fine editor of Konfekt magazine, said that a chicken was suitably as rare as hen’s teeth where she resides in London. (Although surely the editor of Konfekt should have some rare-breed, fancy-feathered delights living in her garden?). Tom, yes, “poop” Tom, added that he had struggled to get the olives he likes. Um. I have a feeling that the folks at Monocle should just about pull through this crisis.

Back at Frieze I spoke to people about how the opening day was going. “Bonkers!” said an old acquaintance, before he ran off to retrieve another artwork for an impatient client. Another had just sold a work for £100,000 (€118,000) to a woman who had had her interior decorator on Facetime to ensure that her art was not only a good investment but would also match the colour scheme in her townhouse. I love observing this upper echelon of private collectors: surgeoned faces, immaculate hair, a swagger that comes from years of making entrances.

Monocle 24, our radio outfit, celebrates its 10th anniversary this week and on Thursday we held The Monocle Media Summit in London to mark the moment. Clarissa Ward, chief international correspondent at CNN, spoke about her work: confronting the man accused of poisoning Alexei Navalny, working in Afghanistan among the Taliban, as well as navigating emotions (which, in the end, must be parked) and the essence of the job (to shine a light, to bear witness). There was something magnetic about her. You wanted to hear her words. I was mesmerised.

Frieze shopping. I know you should be a bit more highbrow than this but it’s also good to play an imaginary version of that TV programme Supermarket Sweep, in which contestants grab what they can from the aisles at speed, and decide what you would put in your basket to have in your home if your family had plundered some wealth at some point. I would like any of the William Eggleston prints from 1974 on sale at Xavier Hufkens, please. And definitely one of Deborah Roberts’ extraordinary collage works that examine the images we hold of black girls. And, though we would need a crane more than a trolley, Keith Coventry’s “Big Junk 1” – a huge swoosh of blue and yellow across a white canvas, on sale at Pace – would be nice to own too (although, sadly, it’s not going to go up the stairs very easily).

There were also some light moments at our media summit. Peter York (author, market diviner and social commentator) was talking about Condé Nast and its replacing of editors with “heads of content”. He was wonderfully dismissive. “We all know that ‘content’ is just another word for slurry,” he purred. And the other moment of amusement was when Clubhouse was mentioned: just weeks ago heralded as the future of social media and now an audience laughed at its very name. It was the sort of laugh you might let out on finding a photograph of yourself sporting a yellow ra-ra skirt and wondering what the hell you were thinking. The tittering made me feel very happy that radio has been our big digital play.

But that’s enough for this week. I have an imminent appointment with a zookeeper (small animals department). Well, come on, it’s worth a try.

The Look / Short-sleeved shirts

Right to bare arms

In recent weeks, New Jersey’s Democratic Party governor Phil Murphy earned his campaign for re-election in November a measure of global renown with an ingenious television spot (writes Andrew Mueller). The ad noted that Murphy’s Republican opponent, Jack Ciattarelli, had many years ago supported the institution of a ban on public profanity while he was a borough council member, in New Jersey of all jurisdictions. Murphy’s ad invited New Jersey voters to express themselves regarding this proposal, with joyously predictable – if judiciously bleeped – consequences.

However, Murphy also merits attention for his recent distinctive sartorial signature. In a noticeable proportion of his campaign material, Murphy sports a short-sleeved button-up shirt. They are doubtless your top-drawer short-sleeved button-up shirt (before entering politics, Murphy amassed a colossal fortune as a bigwig at Goldman Sachs) but the garment does have particular associations. In television and film, it often denotes the nerd and/or psychopath.

Image: GovPhilMurphy/FLICKR

It is, to say the least, an unusual choice for the modern male politician. When such office-holders or office-seekers expose their forearms, it is usually by rolling up their (long) sleeves. This is a gesture of easy informality and a cheap but effective statement of intent – and readily reversible if the next campaign stop requires a jacket and tie. Murphy, who also wears his short-sleeved shirts audaciously untucked, is clearly all-in on the look.

Polling ahead of next month’s vote suggests that it’s working for him: Murphy is comfortably ahead of the opponent he has sought to portray as a starchy, stiff-collared, buttoned-up square.

How We Live / Sandcastle competitions

Making shore

Over the past 10 years or so, many aspects of our daily lives – some more humdrum than others – have been transformed into reality-television contests (writes Tomos Lewis). Amateur cake-makers, dog-groomers, home cooks, needleworkers, make-up artists and even flower-arrangers have had their own televised competitions in which to showcase their talents and vie for glory.

But Canada might have just introduced the most niche TV tournament so far, one that’s anchored on a simple seaside pastime: building sandcastles. Race Against the Tide premiered in September and is aired and co-produced by the national broadcaster, CBC. Teams have six hours to turn the sand into sculptural whimsy – monumental iterations of dragons, buildings, human faces and clock towers have all so far been carved, grain by grain, in the sand.

To add additional tension, the 10 teams of amateur sand sculptors are not only pitted against each other for sandcastle stardom (and a cash prize) but, as the title suggests, they’re up against the rising tide too. The Bay of Fundy on Canada’s picturesque Atlantic coast has the highest incoming tide recorded anywhere in the world and it arrives, at the end of every episode, to wash the sculpted sand superstructures back into the sea.

It’s quietly engrossing stuff, because it’s as much a testament to life on the coast – its ebb and flow – as it is a reality TV spectacle. And no matter whose prowess with a bucket and spade wins out at the show’s climax in a few weeks’ time, it’s certainly flipped the notion of what it means to build one’s dreams on the sand.

The Interrogator / Gabriel Byrne

Unusual suspect

Irish actor and producer Gabriel Byrne has starred in acclaimed films such as Miller’s Crossing and The Usual Suspects, as well as the series In Treatment, for which he received a Golden Globe. In an acting career that began in the late 1970s, he has been nominated for several Emmy and Tony awards. His 2020 memoir Walking with Ghosts tells the story of his childhood in Dublin and his initial desire to become a priest, before moving onto his career in Hollywood and on Broadway. Byrne, who recently finished filming the final season of The War of the Worlds, starring opposite Elizabeth McGovern and Daisy Edgar-Jones, tells us about his favourite Romanian rapper and the joys of singing Verdi in the shower.

Image: Getty Images

Do you start your morning with the news?
I don’t. I like to wake up to the sounds of nature.

What do you hum in the shower?
Who just hums in the shower? It’s full-welly “La donna è mobile” or nothing.

Magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
Harper’s Magazine, The Nation and Country Life.

Your favourite bookshop?
Daunt Books in London, McNally Jackson Books in New York and Kennys Bookshop in Galway. And in Maine, where I live, Left Bank Books in Belfast and Owl & Turtle Bookshop in Camden. All hail independent bookshops.

Is that a podcast in your ear?
Yes. Anything with the sublime Melvyn Bragg, Mariella Frostrup or Stephen Fry.

The best thing you’ve watched on TV recently?
Attack of the Hollywood Clichés! on Netflix.

Your current cultural obsessions?
Romanian rap artist Deliric and the eerie, unsettling novels of Patrick McGrath.

Your favourite newsreader?
No one since Reginald Bosanquet [anchor of ITV’s News at Ten] departed for the great cocktail bar in the sky.

What’s on the airwaves before you drift off?
Nothing. I listen to the sounds of the nighttime and the gentle voice of my wife, Hannah.

Culture / Watch / Read / Visit

Home comforts

‘My Little Sister’, Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond. This heart-rending, deftly executed film is set between the mountains near Lausanne and the Berlin theatre community. It follows two siblings (one, a once-great scriptwriter, the other an actor) who try to rekindle their relationship, as well as their creativity, while one of them is terminally ill. Despite its tough subject matter, the film is a tender, life-affirming feat.

‘Things I Didn’t Throw Out’, Marcin Wicha. In this funny and tender memoir, Polish author Marcin Wicha paints a vivid portrait of his mother, Joanna, through the everyday objects she left behind in her apartment when she died. Under communist rule after the Second World War, money and belongings were scarce; the things that Joanna chose to buy and hold onto, from paperbacks and pencils to torches and penknives, tell a poignant story of her life and the country today.

Cromwell Place, Frieze Week. Almost every commercial gallery in London will have something on during the so-called Frieze Week but if you want to get your fill without marching through Mayfair, head to Cromwell Place in South Kensington. This season sees this new cluster of galleries, hosted in an impressive set of Victorian townhouses, finally come into their own, after last year’s forcedly softer opening. From Black Box Project’s solo show of Danish artist Adam Jeppesen’s melancholy works to Tiwani Contemporary’s display of incisive pieces by Congolese-Australian painter Pierre Mukeba, there is plenty of tonal variety on display here.

Outpost News / ‘Diário de Notícias’

Notes from a small island

Madeira is the kind of place that people keep coming back to (writes Carolina Abbott Galvão). “We’re on an island but there are people from all over here,” says Ricardo Oliveira, editor of daily newspaper Diário de Notícias. Hanging off the coast of West Africa, the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira (population 250,000) is home to clear beaches, deep forests and rugged, green cliffs. And, according to Oliveira, although many come to be closer to nature, they tend to stay for the sense of community. “People here are very receptive,” he says. It’s why his publication, which celebrates its 145th anniversary this week, is mainly focused on regional happenings. Here, Oliveira tells us about the history of the paper and the latest goings-on in Funchal.

Why are papers like yours important?
Our publication started in 1876. Even then, people knew how important newspapers were. Now, in addition to our daily paper, we have a website and a radio station. It’s important that someone is looking out for the interests of the people who live here and a good way to do that is by providing people with objective reporting. For example, during the municipal elections, we did a livestream with a number of journalists reporting from different locations on the island.

What topics do you usually cover?
We cover all sorts of things, good and bad, from politics to entertainment. We want to reach as many people as we can, regardless of age or class. Recently, we did a story on new parking spaces at a hospital and we’ve also been following the number of cruise ships coming in and out of our harbour. Because of the pandemic, the number of ships coming in probably won’t go back to normal until next year.

Do you have any events coming up?
We’re co-hosting a trail-running event at the end of the month called Ecotrail. As a paper, we’re committed to attending to the needs of the community in any way possible. That includes sports and cultural activities.

What am I bid? / Michael Maharam design collection

Lasting pleasures

When Michael Maharam was in his late teens in the late 1970s, he regularly spent his weekends at flea markets (writes Will Higginbotham). These excursions, which developed into trips to auction houses, gave the future owner of US textile company Maharam a penchant for spotting great design. Before long he was a full-blown collector, amassing an enviable trove of pieces over the years.

Much of this collection was stored in his Manhattan apartment but, with Maharam trading the US for Italy, that’s about to change. Some 200 pieces won’t be making the transatlantic trip and will instead be put up for auction at Sotheby’s, with 70 going under the gavel on Tuesday.

Image: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Up for grabs are some of Maharam’s most coveted items: a set of Tapio Wirkkala vases (pictured, on right) estimated at $1,500 (€1,300), a Charles and Ray Eames LCW chair (pictured, on left) at $2,000 (€1,700) and a set of three stools by Pul Kjaerholm for an estimated $3,000 (€2,600). The auction follows another sale of Maharam treasures that took place in New York yesterday. There, Dutch designer Gerrit Rietveld’s Rood Blauwe Chair sold for more than $400,000 (€345,000) and a 1960 “Sonambient” sculpture by Harry Bertoia exceeded $30,000 (€25,000).

For those considering picking up a piece or two, Maharam offers some sage advice from one collector to another. “Don’t overthink it,” he says. “Sooner or later you’ll forget the price but you will always own the pleasure.”


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