Wednesday 15 June 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 15/6/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Jon Etter/© the artists / estates. Courtesy the artists /estates and Hauser & Wirth

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Positive change

Maybe it’s the sun forcing everyone into linen suits and sandals or the reappearance of American collectors, but Art Basel’s full return this week – in its usual June slot – feels unequivocally buoyant. About 290 galleries from 40 nations are showing here and the work displayed is big, bold, colourful and defiantly optimistic. Aside from checks on collectors’ allegiances and the championing of Ukrainian projects, social issues don’t feel like they are centre stage: it seems that people want to be positive about the world. Standout (and very expensive) pieces such as Louis Bourgeois’s giant spider (pictured), which looms inside Swiss mega-player Hauser & Wirth’s booth, corroborate reports that the art market has very much bounced back.

Last year’s reduced edition (in September) happened against all odds but, as Art Basel’s director Marc Spiegler put it, “we all know it was not the same”. Now, the art world is trying to ascertain whether the largest and most important fair in its calendar feels like it did in 2019. Galleries from Mitteleuropa may still rule the roost but more slots are taken up by exhibitors from further afield – from Senegal to Angola, Egypt to the Philippines – which brings a different flavour to an otherwise very established, commercial roster.

Some participants seem to have gained new perspectives from the past two years. “Coming back to ‘normal’ Art Basel, we wanted to surprise a little bit by curating differently,” says Stefan von Bartha, whose Basel-based gallery is presenting an uncharacteristically daring selection this year, as well as supplying a full magazine of its offering instead of a mere PDF. The shift to online viewing rooms has also left its mark. “We have QR codes so you can check the whole inventory of the artists with prices and information,” he adds. The return of enthusiasm and energy at Art Basel is fundamental and very much appreciated but many will find the amends in the way art fairs operate just as welcome.

Chiara Rimella is the culture editor of Monocle and the deputy editor of ‘Konfekt’.

Image: Alamy

Geopolitics / Turkey

Hard bargain

Since Sweden and Finland applied to join Nato, one man has stood in their way: Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey’s president (pictured) has long been critical of Sweden’s openness towards the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which he considers a terrorist organisation, so he is playing hardball over his vote on accession. In return for allowing both countries to join the bloc, he wants guarantees of more action in stopping the PKK from organising in Sweden, alongside assurances about weapons embargoes on Turkey.

Given that leverage, he looks likely to succeed, especially after Nato’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, recently legitimised his concerns in public. Erdogan’s use of his diplomatic heft to impress domestic voters has a further purpose: he has an election next year to think about, says Istanbul-based journalist Hannah Lucinda Smith. “The last time he was heading into a vote in 2017 he picked fights with Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands over similar issues,” she says. “It’s a tried and trusted tactic.”

For more on Sweden and Finland’s attempts to join Nato, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

F&B / Hong Kong

Lost at sea

The departure of Hong Kong’s vast floating restaurant Jumbo Kingdom leaves behind a bigger void than most. The brightly lit multi-storey banqueting hall decked out like a Ming dynasty palace was towed out of Aberdeen Marina this week. Its next stop is an undisclosed shipyard in southeast Asia, where the tourist attraction could be sold or scrapped. It’s a sad end for a kitschy icon from Hong Kong’s heyday.

Opened in the 1970s by late casino magnate Stanley Ho, ordinary diners would arrive by boat to the Hong Kong fixture, which has starred in James Bond films and hosted visiting royalty. However, the lights went out at the start of the pandemic and the city’s ongoing quarantine requirements ultimately sank all hopes of an economic lifeline. By the end, Jumbo Kingdom’s owners couldn’t even give the restaurant away. Although the food won’t be missed, dining out in Hong Kong just became a lot less colourful.

Image: Levi Mandel

Agriculture / USA

Fruits of labour

Climate change, supply-chain issues and the disruption to farming caused by the war in Ukraine have exposed the fragility of our global food security. One long-term solution could lie in a €47 tray of strawberries. In Jersey City, food start-up Oishii is attempting to perfect the summer fruit using in-vitro fertilisation, nutrient-rich gels and indoor pollination. And the strategy is bearing fruit: Oishii’s extra-sweet strawberries are beloved by Michelin-starred restaurants and the company has already secured €47m in financing.

While niche and often expensive, vertical farms can be set up almost anywhere, cutting transport distances. “This is an industry that can truly transform how we eat and our ability to feed the world in the future,” said Oishii’s co-founder Brendan Somerville in Monocle’s July/August issue, which is out tomorrow. Vertical farming deals more than doubled in value between 2019 and 2021 to €920m – a drop in the ocean compared with global food demand but an encouraging trajectory nonetheless. It’s food for thought, at least.

For a bigger bite of the trends improving your quality of life this summer, grab a copy of Monocle’s bumper July/August edition or subscribe so that you never miss an issue.

Image: Alamy

Film / Global

Screen dream

Streamers beware: the summer blockbuster season is back with a bang. Top Gun: Maverick (pictured) has thrived at the box office – it’s en route to becoming Tom Cruise’s first $1bn (€960m) grossing film – and Jurassic World: Dominion beat expectations in its first two weeks of worldwide release, grossing €373m despite reviews recommending its extinction. Even beyond Hollywood, movie-goers are flocking back to cinemas. In South Korea, crime-action title The Roundup attracted more than 10 million ticket sales – a rare event in the country – and arthouse film Broker, which impressed at Cannes, also opened with strong numbers.

All of this comes amid a slew of negative results for streaming services, which are struggling with a loss of subscribers, suggesting a curtain call for the received wisdom that people only want to watch films at home. Rumours abound that even Netflix’s hotly anticipated sequel to the whodunnit hit Knives Out will have a longer theatrical window. Long live the big screen.

Image: Clara Orozco

Monocle 24 / On Culture

Art, music and film roundup

We visit Norway’s new National Museum, which aims to cement the city’s position as an emerging cultural capital. Plus: behind the scenes of Barcelona music festival Primavera Sound and the founder of the Bali International Film Festival.

Global / Monocle Films

Monocle preview: June issue, 2022

Monocle’s June issue will get you where you need to go. Our mobility special delivers reports on electric planes, dinky buses and the new Motor City. And once you’ve arrived at your destination, our art survey shows you the top talents to seek out around the world. Plus: how will Ukraine be rebuilt? Order your copy today from The Monocle Shop.


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