Wednesday. 12/10/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Spirit level

I recently interviewed Clément Delépine, director of the Paris+ art fair, Art Basel’s new French offshoot that debuts next week. I asked him what would make the new event different from its pre-existing Swiss, US and Hong Kong cousins. His answer touched on everything: the gallery selection, the kinds of projects on the walls, the type of collectors who would attend. It felt as though we were circling around the idea of the “spirit” of the fair – an intangible but very perceptible quality, something that isn’t designed but simply emerges.

As Frieze London (pictured) opens today in Regent’s Park, the idea of an event with an appealing spirit seems more important than ever. The economic context around the UK’s biggest art fair has only got worse since Brexit (remember that?). At the time, people started speculating about whether or not London would be able to maintain its status as one of the world’s greatest centres of art and whether Paris would take over. French competition has now materialised in the form of Paris+, which begins across the Channel just after Frieze wraps up.

The UK’s political squabbles and the cost-of-living crisis are unlikely to have too much of an effect on the deals done inside the Regent’s Park marquee – if anything, a weak pound will encourage international buyers to bag themselves a bargain. Yet the battle for prominence on the international art calendar might end up being a more subtle one. Frieze is a very London event and not just because many of its exhibitors are based in the city. It’s something to do with the “spirit” of it all: the events surrounding the fair, known as Frieze Week, remain an eccentric yet mostly tasteful spectacle (if you put aside Damien Hirst’s painting bonfire, that is). For now, that’s enough to lure both collectors and droves of residents in. Let’s hope that this spirit is strong enough to withstand the winds of change blowing outside the tent.

Chiara Rimella is Monocle’s culture editor.

Image: Reuters

Diplomacy / Israel & Lebanon

Parting the sea

Israel and Lebanon have agreed to end their long-running maritime border dispute. For years the countries have argued over the Karish gas field (pictured) and the Qana prospect area in the eastern stretch of the Mediterranean Sea but a new draft agreement brokered by the US seems to have broken the deadlock. Its details have yet to be published but leaks suggest that the Karish field would be under Israeli control, while Qana would be divided, with Lebanon controlling gas exploitation in the area. The two countries are still technically at war and have no diplomatic ties so the deal will take the form of two separate agreements that Beirut and Jerusalem will sign with Washington. Lebanon’s energy minister, Walid Faaya, excitedly declared that his country will now become “a petrostate”. While the deal is a major step towards unlocking potential offshore gas and oil production for both countries, it will be particularly welcome for Lebanon, given its severe financial struggles.

Image: Getty Images

Environment / New Zealand

Hitting the gas

New Zealand is pushing ahead with plans to start charging farmers for the greenhouse gases emitted by their livestock, one of the country’s biggest sources of pollution. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern launched a consultation period yesterday that will help her government to determine the amount that will be levied when the scheme, dubbed a “fart tax”, comes into effect in 2025. The six-week exercise will also inform a range of incentives to encourage more environmentally friendly agriculture. Speaking at a farm near Wellington, Ardern said that the proposal would “enhance our export brand”.

Among New Zealand’s leading exports are beef, milk and other dairy products. The agricultural industry has plenty of political heft, which is why previous governments kicked the methane levy into the long grass. While Ardern has taken the bull by the horns, her party, Labour, is behind in the polls. With an election expected next year, Kiwi voters could decide to put her government out to pasture.

Image: Bloomberg CityLab

Transport / Global

Pedal power

Cities around the world are increasingly embracing cycling but access to funds and planning for cycle lanes and bike-sharing systems isn’t always straightforward. That’s where the Bloomberg Initiative for Cycling Infrastructure (BICI) comes in. The programme, announced this week at the Bloomberg Citylab conference in Amsterdam with a bike ride (pictured), allows any city with 100,000 inhabitants or more to apply for up to $1m (€1m) to modernise its cycling infrastructure.

Ten cities will be awarded the money. Janette Sadik-Khan, principal of transportation at Bloomberg Associates, tells The Monocle Minute that the award also comes with three years of technical assistance, so that BICI can “inform on innovative designs, community engagement or even types of materials”. Applications close next February and the programme is expected to begin next spring. Though not every applicant will be given funding, Sadik-Khan believes that change can also start small. “You want a greater city?” she asks. “Then start by building a bike lane.”

Parks / Switzerland

Constant gardener

The buzzing of drones might not be music to everyone’s ears but in Zürich, flying contraptions are being put to good use, helping to maintain the city’s many green spaces. According to Zürich councillor Simone Brander, Switzerland’s largest city is in a privileged position to break new horticultural ground. An infrared drone will assess the city’s sports fields for aridity, identifying precisely where more water is needed.

The machine, which can also identify harmful organisms from a distance, will help the city to allocate resources efficiently and use as little pesticides as possible. Technology isn’t completely replacing the work of Zürich’s 500 or so gardeners, however. After all, a bird’s-eye view is no substitute for green fingers.

Image: Mark Mahaney

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Culture

Commercial photography – or fine art?

This week we look through the viewfinder at the world of photography and explore whether the fields of commercial and art photography are beginning to merge. We speak to Matthew Beaman, Monocle’s photography director; stop by London agency East’s gallery space, 10 14; and catch up with photographer Mark Mahaney.

Monocle Films / Global

Welcome to the Auberge Monocle

Monocle has so far resisted the temptation to open a hotel – but that doesn’t mean that we don’t spend time thinking about who we’d hire to oversee a renovation, run the bar or design the uniforms. With this in mind, here are the six house rules we’d strictly enforce to keep things civil and serene around the pool, in the lobby and on the balcony.

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