Thursday. 24/2/2022

The Monocle Minute

BREAKING NEWS / WAR IN UKRAINE

Full-scale Russian invasion has begun

The world awakes to a new war in Europe. The levee of diplomatic deadlock finally broke shortly after 05.00 local time in eastern Ukraine and Russian troops have crossed the border in the east, north and south of the country. Distant explosions have been heard in the capital Kyiv and in other cities across the country. Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky broke diplomatic ties with Russia in a dramatic morning television address, calling on citizens to take up arms and defend their nation in city streets and squares; he called on Russian citizens to stand with Ukraine as well.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has condemned Russia’s “cold-blooded” invasion of Ukraine as a “grave moment for Europe”. The 30-nation Western military alliance also held Article 4 self-defence consultations at the request of multiple eastern members and vowed to strengthen its collective defence. Joe Biden has said that Russia will be held accountable and EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen vowed to impose the “harshest sanctions” including shutting Russia out of financial markets. There will be multiple emergency meetings of Western leaders throughout the day to make these comments concrete. Sanctions drawn up in recent days had failed to deter Vladimir Putin on his path to war and there will be mounting pressure on leaders in Europe and the US to make good on prior threats to unleash their full arsenal of economic sanctions on Putin and his inner circle. The next few hours will be critical.

For full coverage of the war in Ukraine, listen to Monocle 24’s live news shows across the day, including The Briefing and The Monocle Daily. We will also be sending a special Monocle Minute update later today.

Image: Robert Rieger

Opinion / Stephanie Rosenthal

Putting on a show

In 2007 I became chief curator at London’s Hayward Gallery. At the time, we were all trying to make large-scale, popular shows that focused on flashy architecture and inviting artists from all over the world. In recent years and even before the pandemic, institutions, directors and curators have become more aware of what’s needed to put on an exhibition and what is wasteful in the process.

What has also changed, due to travel and transport being very difficult over the past few years, is how we think about travelling exhibitions and touring shows, as well as how we solicit loans from all over the world. How many do you really need? We’ve started to sharpen our focus on particular regions. Will the richness of shows be reduced as a result? No; we’re just learning to work differently. And while we have always wanted to engage in new conversations that enrich discourse at Gropius Bau in Berlin, which I joined in 2018, curators can now talk more openly today than they could 15 years ago. We’re learning directly from artists about the topics that are important to their work. Exhibitions about themes that might have seemed radical even five years ago are no longer only part of inner circles but have reached a broader audience.

Institutions are also listening more to their public. The audience is very conscious about how sustainably an institution works, especially here in Berlin. While there still isn’t enough change, for example on gender equality in leadership positions, so much improvement has happened between 2007 to today. It feels like a new generation – including my generation – is taking over. We have an opportunity to work with peers who are like-minded and to be part of that change.

Stephanie Rosenthal has been the director of Gropius Bau since 2018. Before that she worked 10 years as the chief curator of the Hayward Gallery in London. For more on how the world has changed over the past 15 years and what’s next, subscribe to Monocle now for a copy of our special 15th anniversary issue or pick one up on newsstands now.

Image: Amara Eno

Defence / Latvia

Ready for disaster

Latvia’s Defence Ministry has made a booklet called “72 Hours: How to act in a crisis if living outside of Latvia” available for overseas citizens to download. It is based on a guide for domestic audiences and while it was created before the current Russia-Ukraine crisis, there’s no doubt which instigators the authors had in mind. The guide includes instructions for recognising fake news, guidance on finding reliable information sources and tips for resistance. The domestic version also includes an informational deck of cards (pictured) and instructions for recognising the uniforms of legitimate Latvian military personnel. Vitalijs Rakstins, Latvia’s defence councillor to the UK, tells The Monocle Minute that his nation has first-hand experience of what a valuable asset citizens abroad can be. “During our country’s occupation in Soviet times, our diasporas were very active and hard-working,” he says. “They kept the pressure on the governments of Western nations, raising international awareness about what Latvia was going through.” The same might be required now.

Image: LMVH

Fashion / France

Hide out

Louis Vuitton has reinforced its commitment to “Made in France” craftsmanship and to using exotic skins in its handbags with the opening this week of two new leather-goods workshops. The inauguration was attended by LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault and finance minister Bruno Le Maire – no doubt meant as a statement of the strong ties between Arnault and the government of Emmanuel Macron ahead of April’s election – and comes amid a shortage of quality leather. Hermès is also opening three new factories in France as production has struggled to meet demand.

As tanneries in Italy, France and Spain are running short of skins, some “mass luxury” brands are opting for textured alternatives embossed with artificial grains and varnished to hide flaws. But the likes of Hermès will only use top-grade leather. It helps that Hermès owns exotic skins tannery HCP Hermès Cuirs Précieux; LVMH and Kering are also buying farms to control production. The race for quality sourcing is on.

Image: Shutterstock

Society / Brazil

Motion capture

Brazilian police are considered among the most brutal in the world but efforts to decrease the number of deaths at the hands of authorities are showing positive signs of success. Recent figures show that the use of body cameras in particular, which are already a common practice in other countries such as the US, has had a major effect in the states of São Paulo and Santa Catarina. The number of deaths stemming from police confrontations fell by 45 per cent since their introduction in São Paulo in May 2020. The state now has 2,500 body cameras in operation and is aiming for a rapid expansion this year; others are expected to follow suit. Security experts say that the cameras not only help to monitor the interaction between police and citizens but can also help police by providing clear evidence of crimes. Their use is certainly not the only necessary solution for Brazil’s policing problem but it’s a welcome start.

Image: Ifema Madrid

Art / Spain

Common language

Arco Madrid is opening to the general public today and, with its exhibitors list heavy on Spanish galleries, it may at first appear to be a mostly Iberian affair. But as one of the few art fairs that managed to stage a physical edition in both 2020 and 2021, the show’s reputation for resilience has been recognised across the world. As the first major appointment in Europe in 2022, it has also become a symbolic place to kick off a new season of fairs. Walking down the corridors, you’ll mostly hear Spanish being spoken but pay enough attention and you’ll realise that some of those accents come from across the Atlantic. “This fair is very important in reaching Latin American collectors,” Vienna-based gallerist Rosemarie Schwarzwälder tells The Monocle Minute. With travel between Europe and the Americas still complicated, Arco is a fundamental way to reach that growing collector base. And some gallerists have made the trip too: Guatemala’s Proyectos Ultravioleta, for example, is putting on an impressive show as part of the fair’s special “Nunca Lo Mismo” (“never the same”) section.

Image: Herman Miller Archives

M24 / Monocle On Design

Modernism Week

We take a trip to Palm Springs for Modernism Week and discuss how comfort shaped mid-century furniture. Plus: modern architecture and comedy with Tim Ross.

Monocle Films / Poland

Officer class: Poland’s military university

Monocle Films visits Poland’s land forces academy, which is nurturing the next generation of officers to fuel its expanding defence forces.

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