Saturday 21 May 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 21/5/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Sound decisions

Whether you’re in the market for a rockstar’s guitar or seeking silence to finally start that holiday read (even if you don’t finish it), this weekend’s Saturday offering is in perfect harmony. Elsewhere there are style steers to heed for expectant mothers and intrepid octogenarians alike. But first, Andrew Tuck recounts an evening’s entertainment suitable for all ages.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Life’s a stage

On Thursday we went to see Jerusalem, the revival of the play by Jez Butterworth about, well, England. It’s set on St George’s Day in the county of Wiltshire. The star, just as when it was first staged in 2009, is Mark Rylance, who plays Rooster Byron, a man who lives in a caravan in a forest where he sells drugs, boozes, parties and allows the town's kids to hang out. He’s a bit of a storyteller, someone who makes things up – but are some of his seemingly fanciful anecdotes not fantasies after all? Oh, and the locals want him gone. Rylance is like a firework let off indoors – whizzing, firing, sparkling across the stage. His character is the hero of the day: a man who knows the forest, believes in the power of our blood, our connection to the soil. It’s funny, it’s bleak.

Mid-show, I always find myself scanning the audience, faces illuminated by the stage lights, to catch their energy, to tap in to the mood of the room. And while everyone – the men behind us in their grey City attire, the elderly mother and daughter beside me – was clearly rooting for Rooster, I wondered whether, as we tucked ourselves up in bed, we would admit to ourselves that if Rooster Byron lived near our houses, we would be calling the police like the play’s “new estate neighbours”. All amusing on stage but not good for house prices or the nerves in real life.

The tickets had been bought by my friend Paul ages ago. He has a very organised approach to culture that I envy. As soon as he sees a potentially good play or exhibition announced, he books tickets, then often only when the day has almost come does he ask around to see who wants to join him. No dithering while people look at their 2024 diaries, procrastinate. As someone who is often unsure whether I will be free, even a few days out, I regularly miss out on the big cultural hits and keep meaning to emulate his strategy. Anyway, he’d make a very good ticket tout if he ever left his job in banking.

During the play’s interval I stayed in my seat, as did the man and woman behind me; and I made the mistake of tuning in to their mid-show review. “Are you enjoying it?” he asked. “Yes, but I keep thinking of The Lady in the Van,” she said in reference to the Alan Bennett play about a woman who ended up living in a van in his garden. “It’s terribly confusing; I know I am going to get my caravans all of a muddle. You’ll have to help me.”

On this trip there was Paul, me and the other half, and our neighbour, who we all bonded with during the lockdowns. He’s a hoot, now 86, and has a frantic social life – he’d been to the theatre just the night before and during the interval was giving me new restaurant tips. At the end of the show we bumped into John, another friend who was at the theatre with an aunt. John is, I guess, 20 years younger than me and a regular dinner buddy. Everyone fell into easy conversation. And this was another social takeaway from the night – how great that life allows us to swim outside our lanes, to have people as friends who cover such an arc of ages, backgrounds. Perhaps it was always the case for some folk but growing up I remember that all my parents’ friends looked like them. I also remember working with a woman who used to talk about a party being great, or a dinner a joy, because it was “full of PLUs” – “people like us”. I always knew I wanted to escape that. But, again, Rooster, would he make me yearn for a few more PLUs at the dinner table?

Perhaps a night at the theatre is less about changing who you are but just being shaken a little, allowed to laugh at yourselves as well as the play. And to know your prejudices and limitations a bit better and believe that, at times, there can be a special magic at work in England’s changing landscapes. Or even just be able to tell your caravans apart.

The Look / Maternity chic

Terms of adornment

Now that Rihanna has given birth we can look back wistfully on the breaking of a watershed in fashion (writes Violet Hudson). In the future, maternity wear will be divided into two distinct eras: pre- and post-Rihanna. During the dark ages of pre-Riri, pregnant women wore either shapeless billowing frocks “designed” to disguise their bumps in so much fabric they could double up as a handy Big Top; or else “flaunted” their stomachs in faux-demure, figure-hugging outfits with such saccharine details as pussy-bow collars and tulip skirts. If that doesn’t give you morning sickness, nothing will.

Image: Getty Images

In this brave new world, though, with the pop superstar as its Lady Liberty, pregnant women have realised that they can wear… whatever they like. Rihanna’s pregnancy look was defiantly un-matronly: hotpants, bra-style crop-tops and belly chains predominated, with vertiginous heels (once so frowned upon for the soon-to-be-mother), chiffon and leather everywhere. Rihanna boldly stated that, yes, she was pregnant but she was still herself. And if that self wanted to show the world its linea nigra, it was damn well going to.

When I was expecting last year, my mother dug a Victorian maternity dress out of the attic. It looked like a mourning gown – perhaps an unconscious nod to the waving of a teary farewell to youth that pregnancy represents. Or represented: even before Rihanna’s display, some brands (props to Beyond Nine, Clary & Peg and Frugi) had begun to realise that pregnant women still want nice clothes that make them feel attractive. When you’re the size of a ship, can only waddle and need to pee every 20 minutes, you have to seek your joys somewhere. Now we await the unveiling of Riri’s new-mum wardrobe. If anyone can make sick stains look, er, sick, it’s Rihanna.

How we live / Holiday reading

Worth its weight?

Strict modern baggage allowances have forced us all to become incredibly selective about what we pack on holiday (writes Fergus Butler-Gallie). With one exception: books. Everyone I know brings more volumes than they could possibly hope to read. And then, perhaps inevitably, doesn’t read them.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

On a recent trip, one friend managed a solitary chapter of a weighty publication on economic theory before leaving it to cast a long shadow on an Egyptian sunlounger; another accomplished about a quarter of a best-selling novel and then abandoned the poor tome on an Istanbul roof. Throughout all of these trips I have managed a few chapters of some Paul Theroux and about a third of The Pursuit of Love – admittedly, more an amble than a pursuit.

Why do we do this? Why do we lug heavy hardbacks across oceans and then leave them, barely leafed through, on poolsides and at bar tables? Who are we trying to kid? My theory is that, even on holiday, we feel we must do something. Of course, some holidays have productive activity built in; that is the reason, I suppose, that almost nobody brings a bag full of books to the ski slopes or on safari. But for most of our holidays, when we deliberately luxuriate in inactivity, we require some sort of small link to the idea that we might be using our time profitably. Books then provide the rectangular fig leaf we require to cover this sin. Though if all they are is very heavy props, perhaps something lighter would be a more practical choice; surely a stethoscope would achieve the desired effect of making us look learned. You could even use it to check whether the tonic water is still fizzing in your G&T.

The Interrogator / Neil Logan

Opening up

After working under Toshiko Mori and Philippe Starck, New York-based architect Neil Logan opened his eponymous studio in 1992. As well as designing galleries, apartments and shop interiors, Logan creates Danish-inspired furniture that reflects his fondness for open spaces. Here he tells us about his morning routine, Scandi-reads and eclectic playlists.

What have you been working on lately?
Several projects of various scales – but the one that I’m working on in my free time is a house for me and my wife in a former quarry, two hours north of Manhattan.

Where do you get your morning news?
I read a print copy of The New York Times every morning with a cup of coffee.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify?
I sometimes listen to radio station WNYC while making breakfast, then stream GDS FM from Zürich while working.

What’s on your sofa-side stack?
After a recent trip to Copenhagen I decided to read biographies of 19th-century Danish architects Michael Gottlieb Bindesbøll, his son Thorvald Bindesbøll and Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint.

What have you watched recently?
I was mesmerised by the 1972 film Ciao! Manhattan, featuring Edie Sedgwick playing herself shortly before her death.

What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
I listen to all kinds of music in the evening, often things that I’ve captured throughout the day on the Shazam app. I use it like a journal, recording music that I hear on the radio.

Culture / Frieze New York

Artistic licence

The 10th edition of Frieze New York closes tomorrow after five days of chatter, champagne and, most importantly, art. Here’s our rundown of three shows to catch before the last cork pops.

Prabhavathi Meppayil, Pace Gallery, Chelsea. Pace’s huge flagship gallery in Chelsea, which opened in 2019, still divides architectural opinion but there’s no doubt that it’s an impressive space for viewing art. Indeed, the gallery’s light-filled rooms are the perfect setting for this new show, which runs until June. Indian artist Prabhavathi Meppayil uses traditional Bangalorean tools and techniques to create works – part painting, part sculpture – that beguile with the intricacy of their construction and the simplicity of their appearance.

Nari Ward, Lehmann Maupin, Chelsea. One block south is Lehmann Maupin’s similarly postmodern glassy space. Running until 4 June is Jamaican-born, New York-based artist Nari Ward’s I’ll Take You There; a Proclamation. Ward uses repurposed, recycled and discarded objects – old TVs, buggies, bottles and shoelaces – to create large canvases awhirl with strange colours and oblique messages. This is street art as fine art and fine art as something else entirely.

Paulo Nazareth, Mendes Wood DM, Tribeca. Take the C line down to Canal Street, then stroll the short distance to Tribeca. Here you’ll find Brazilian gallery Mendes Wood DM’s new 650 sq m space and an intriguing multimedia exhibition by Belo Horizonte artist Paulo Nazareth. Nosotros los otros is almost a retrospective, bringing together his work in photography, film, sculpture and illustration since 2005, drawing from the experience of indigenous and Afro-Brazilians. In one video, Nazareth walks through the Americas wearing just flip-flops that, after thousands of miles, he washes in the Hudson River.

Retail Update / Isabel Rotger, Act

Fleet of foot

Isabel Rotger runs Act, a “Made in Spain” shoe brand that has found a surefooted following. The business started in 2013 in Berlin before relocating to Mallorca along with Rotger, whose family are from the island. Act began by taking the classic espadrille and remaking it with the best materials that Rotger could find and enough padding in the sole to ensure that they are as comfortable on a city street as they are on a Med beach.

Image: Ben Roberts
Image: Ben Roberts

They proved a big hit and thousands of pairs have now been sold around the world. Since then, the business has flourished and Act is now producing some 30 styles of shoes for men and women. Rotger also runs a shop in Palma’s Santa Catalina neighbourhood – although in the summer she likes to ensure that she gets to enjoy her base’s sunnier offerings. From loafers to pumps and those comfy espadrilles, it’s a shoe business that cares about your feet and provenance too.

To discover more about brands and artists based in Mallorca, read the June issue of Monocle, out now.

What Am I Bid? / Kurt Cobain’s Fender Mustang

Guitar-shaped lot

A 1960s Fender Mustang guitar does not come cheap – you’d be looking at several thousand euros even for one that did not feature in an era-defining, paradigm-shifting music video (writes Andrew Mueller). The left-handed blue 1969 Fender Mustang thrashed by Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain in the clip for 1991’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” will set you back rather more.

Cobain’s Mustang is the headline attraction of an auction of Nirvana ephemera at Julien’s. It was expected to fetch $800,000 (€760,000) but a bid of $2m (€1.9m) has already been received from Jim Irsay, the owner of American football franchise the Indianapolis Colts owner, who is an avid music memorabilia collector. The Colts run a mental health advocacy programme called Kicking The Stigma, to which some of the auction’s proceeds are being directed.

Irsay’s bid alone would elevate Cobain’s Mustang into the upper echelons of the most expensive guitars ever auctioned, though it would still be some way short of the $6m (€5.7m) paid in 2020 for Cobain’s Martin D-18E acoustic – the guitar he played on Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged” recording. By that measure, Cobain’s Mustang might actually have some room to appreciate in value.

Other lots at the same auction are more affordable. The collector of both rock and automotive memorabilia can bid on Cobain’s 1965 Dodge Dart, for which the singer paid $2,500 (€2,400) in 1994 and for which you might pay as much as $600,000 (€570,000) now. At the bargain basement end, you could pick up Cobain’s laminated Access All Areas pass from the “In Utero” tour for circa $1,200 (€1,150). You have until tomorrow.

Ad of the Week / A Kind of Guise x Mr Porter

One for the ages

A Kind of Guise’s new collaboration with Mr Porter elevates the casual to the downright retired (writes Jack Simpson). The shoot for this limited-edition capsule collection evokes the spirit of slow-paced adventure and timeless style that we all wishfully envisage for our own dotage. Akin to most advertising, it sells us a dream. This time, though, it’s heart-warmingly reluctant to shame you; instead it woos.

Image: Dani Pujalte

The clothing takes a back seat as we decompress in the love affair between the Hockney-esque couple and their getaway. As they meander through an unknown Mediterranean resort, they enjoy alfresco dining, drinks, sea swimming and sunning. The couple saunter from scene to scene comfortably and with a self-assuredness that couldn’t be matched by a twentysomething model. Post-daydream, after you’ve been lulled into this idyllic furlough and have tried to wring a Campari spritz from the office water cooler, you remember that some bandanas are being sold.


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