Saturday 4 June 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 4/6/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Weekend wonder

We reveal the story behind the fastest-growing sport in the US and put our sights on Zed Nelson’s most iconic shot. Plus: art once owned by Hubert de Givenchy goes under the hammer – and should we give a damn about what politicians wear? Andrew Tuck gets the ball rolling.

OPENER / Andrew Tuck

Taking a break in Paris

It’s that time of the week where I find a quiet spot and write my Saturday column. But this week? Well, it’s a steamy Friday in Paris and the Monocle Quality of Life Conference is in full swing – and we have just hit lunchtime and there’s rosé to be sampled from Chanel’s vineyards and food from Kamal Mouzawak’s Tawlet restaurant to savour. And I’m hungry. So for one week only I am giving myself some extra QOL and, rather than filing my column, I have persuaded the team to give you a peek of what’s been going on here at le19M – there’s been a fun “ask the concierge” session, we have heard from Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel SAS, about why brands need to “take the risk and create the future” and Dutch architect Ton Venhoeven has explained why the Paris Olympics’ Aquatics Centre will revive Saint-Denis. But I’ll tell you everything another time. If you want to hear more from Paris, you can also tune in to Monocle 24. Have a great Saturday.

The Look / Penny Wong

Look the other way

Australia’s new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is – by outward appearances, at least – a definitively orthodox occupant of the job (writes Andrew Mueller). Like almost all of his 30 predecessors, he is a middle-aged white guy. By the standards of the Labor Party he leads, Albanese is similarly central casting: as he might have mentioned once or twice during the recent election campaign, he was raised in public housing in the inner suburbs of Sydney.

None of which is the case where Australia’s new foreign minister, Penny Wong, is concerned. Wong will, by definition, present a new face of Australia to the world. She is not, as has been widely reported, Australia’s first foreign-born foreign minister – that was London-born Billy Hughes, back in 1904. But she is Australia’s first openly gay female parliamentarian and having been born and partly raised in Malaysia, the most senior Asian-Australian officeholder in her country’s history.

Image: Shutterstock

For all these reasons, Wong’s fashion choices have been subject to even more scrutiny, from the inane to the malicious, than that usually attracted by high-profile female politicians. Hearteningly – and correctly – Wong refuses to give any indication that she cares in the slightest. Interviewed by the ABC last year, Wong spoke bemusedly of the amount of her hate mail that comprises “fashion tips from blokes: ‘Wear a [expletive] dress’.” Wong went on to wonder what her helpful correspondents might themselves be dressed in when they compose this sage advice: “Trackie daks? Possibly Uggies?” (This translates from the Australian as “tracksuit bottoms and fleece-lined boots”).

Wong herself favours suits over open-collared shirts. The public record does not contain much in the way of detail of her preferred designers: it would be nice to think that this is because the modern Australian journalist knows better than to ask such daft questions.

How We Live / New sports

Pickle your fancy?

Pickleball’s origin story is clear enough (writes Gregory Scruggs). In 1965 two Seattle men grabbed ping-pong bats and a plastic ball, then lowered a badminton net. Where history becomes legend is in the naming. Was the inspiration for it a dog named Pickles or because the Frankenstein sport resembled a pickle boat crew, in which oarsmen are chosen from a rowing club’s leftovers?

Today pickleball is said to be the fastest-growing sport in the US. Several towns and cities boast dedicated courts and Washington state’s legislators gave serious debate to their vote declaring it the official state sport in March.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

I’ve always dismissed pickleball as a hobby for the silver set, a suspicion hardly dissuaded by the national championships, which take place near socks-and-sandals mecca Palm Springs and are sponsored by the Margaritaville group of retirement communities. But the sport’s governing body claims that the average player is 38 years old and I’ve heard of climbing and surfing friends who are now obsessed. Perhaps this is because of its gentle pace, which makes pickleball one of those sports you can play after a few drinks. Wait, maybe that’s where the name comes from…

Interrogator / AA Bronson

General rules

AA Bronson is a Canadian artist and the last surviving member of the radical collective General Idea, whose best-known work responded to 1960s counterculture and the Aids crisis. In the 2000s, Bronson became director of Printed Matter Inc, a non-profit dedicated to promoting artists’ books. In 2005 he founded the NY Art Book Fair. Yesterday a General Idea retrospective opened at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. It runs until 20 November.

Image: Getty Images

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Cold-pressed apple juice at dawn. A pot of Fortnum & Mason Royal Blend with breakfast.

Do you prefer Saturday or Sunday?
Saturday and Sunday are two sides of the same coin for me. At our building we’re being gently squeezed out by super-noisy construction that begins at 07.20, water being turned off at odd times without warning, all while people insist that nothing is happening. But on Saturday and Sunday we live in blissful silence.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?
I should say Art Metropole in Toronto, as General Idea founded it in 1974 and I ran it for more than a decade. But instead I will say Printed Matter in New York, which opened in 1976. I was the director from 2004 to 2010. Printed Matter is a rich treasure trove of art books. In 2006 we created the NY Art Book Fair, which I like to think jump-started an ecology of artist-book culture and fairs. After that? I have a tender spot for Tenderbooks in London.

Which podcasts do you listen to?
I desperately want to be bad enough to be included in Bad Gays, a podcast about evil and complicated queers in history, hosted by Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller.

What are you currently humming in the shower?
Yves Klein’s “Monotone Symphony”.

Five magazines from your weekend sofa-side stack?
Since I have never found a magazine I like better than General Idea’s File Megazine, which was published between 1972 and 1989, I keep a stack beside me at all times. Currently the new issue of Butt magazine sits alongside it, as I am proud to be included.

What’s the best thing you’ve seen on TV recently?
I don’t watch TV.

Culture / Watch, Listen, Read

Home front

‘Luzzu’, Alex Camilleri. Fans of cinéma vérité will find much to admire in this debut feature by Maltese-American director Alex Camilleri. Real-life fisherman Jesmark Scicluna plays a man who sails his small boat, or luzzu, against the current of change and modernity. But when he becomes a father, he finds himself out at sea trying to make ends meet and is soon entangled in the net of the black market. Luzzu is a resonant tale of decaying traditions in a community that’s just a few kilometres – but also a world – away from Malta’s glamour and wealth.

‘Back to Mine’, Horse Meat Disco. Started in the late 1990s, compilation series Back to Mine sees musicians select an album’s worth of tracks that they would play at home. Now it’s making a comeback and choosing the songs this time are London-based electronic quartet Horse Meat Disco. Expect plenty of fun and smooth house music, ranging from Róisín Murphy’s excursion into Italo-disco in “Ancora Ancora Ancora” to the soft tones of Lisa King in “You’ve Got Magic”.

‘Fight Night’, Miriam Toews. The ninth book from the Canadian author of All My Puny Sorrows follows nine-year-old Swiv, who lives in Toronto with her mother, Mooshie, and grandmother, Elvira. Written as a letter to Swiv’s absent father, Fight Night paints an intimate portrait of a dysfunctional family and the tight bonds between three generations of complicated women.

Outpost News / ‘Coburger Tageblatt’

Pressing matters

Tucked away in the north of Bavaria, the town of Coburg has a population of 41,000 (writes Monica Lillis). The birthplace of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, it is home to the Veste Coburg (pictured), one of Germany’s best preserved Medieval fortresses. The Coburger Tageblatt has told the stories of this ancient community for more than 130 years. Its editor-in-chief, Fajsz Deáky, tells us about the paper’s run-in with the Nazis and puns in headlines.

Image: Alamy

Tell us about the history of the newspaper.
The first issue of the Coburger Tageblatt was published on 23 June 1886. In 1936 the Nazis expropriated the newspaper and, from 1940 to 1945, the National Zeitung was issued. The Tageblatt was refounded in 1945. I’ve been head of the local office since 2020. Prior to that I worked at Bild for 15 years.

What has been your favourite headline?
We spend a lot of time and energy creating headlines. There was a story about an area being redeveloped, which means that rooms for rock bands to rehearse will disappear. The headline was, Wo will rock you? (“Where will rock you?”).

What’s the big story this week?
It’s a story I’ve been working on since December 2020 about a man from Coburg who had been wrongly imprisoned in the UAE. The reason for the verdict was a misunderstanding: the authorities judged him to have insulted their monarchy. After covering the case and petitioning people to get involved, we helped him gain release from prison and return to Germany.

Photo of the Week / ‘Gun Nation’, Zed Nelson

Bullet points

The recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, have once again thrown into tragic relief the US’s dysfunctional relationship with firearms (writes Jack Simpson) – a subject explored in photographer Zed Nelson’s visual essay Gun Nation.

Image: Zed Nelson

Nelson takes the reader on a journey across America, from the homes of gun-collecting middle-class housewives to shops where ammunition can be purchased like confectionery and the mortuaries where victims of gun violence are interred. “It’s like a civil war’s going on that nobody mentions,” he tells Monocle.

Though this image, titled “Mike and Baby”, is likely to shock most viewers, it represents security for its subject Mike. “When I tried to track him down to ask his permission for the photo to be on the cover of Time, all he asked for was a framed copy,” says Nelson.

What Am I Bid? / Hubert de Givenchy’s Miró

Pieces of a man

Hubert de Givenchy was known for many things: his eponymous couture house, aristocratic heritage, fabulous friends, statuesque good looks and impeccable taste in art (writes Grace Charlton). Unsurprisingly, the French designer’s eye also elevated the art of lavishly curating residences, such as his 16th-century Château du Jonchet in the Loire valley and his Paris pied-à-terre, Hôtel d’Orrouer.

Image: Christie’s Images Limited

“In hindsight I would say that I have had two careers: one as a couturier and another as an art amateur,” Givenchy once said. Following the death of his partner Philippe Venet last year, an auction of Givenchy’s possessions will be taking place at Christie’s Paris from 14 to 17 June. The bountiful and eclectic collection includes works by Miró, Giacometti and Picasso.

Among the work up for grabs is Miró’s “Femme, Oiseau, Étoile”, painted in 1942 when the Catalan surrealist left the turmoil of continental Europe for Mallorca. The lucky owner of this artwork, valued between €120,000 and €180,000, would not simply be buying a Miró but also something of the legacy and vision of Givenchy.


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