Saturday 15 October 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 15/10/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Cultural capitals

This week we assess the cut of Xi Jinping’s jib, dare to think big at a festival of urban innovation in Turin, head to the bathroom for a Berlin ritual and flick through the pages of the first in our new series of travel books. Plus: the Monocle Concierge heads to Singapore. But first, Andrew Tuck makes his way through the bustle of Frieze London.


Fair game

The Frieze London art fair is on until tomorrow. It’s a moment every year when the capital sashays with added confidence and you spot vast migratory herds of international art people sporting their distinctive, tricksy footwear. On Wednesday, the opening day, the temporary pavilions erected in Regent’s Park were crammed with eager buyers and numerous voyeurs parading the aisles. And here’s the first thing that I learned this week: not everyone thinks that the world is in crisis. While I was talking to a gallery owner, a man barged into the conversation, asking, “How much is that painting?” He was informed that the price tag had been £125,000 but that it had already been sold. “Do you have another one?” he pleaded, sporting the kind of stress face that I have only adopted when arriving at the wine shop to discover that its doors have just that second been bolted. He scanned the stand. “What about that one?” he enquired, jabbing his finger at another work. “That was £35,000 – but it’s also sold.” The man walked off, dejected that nobody would take his cash.

Every year I have breakfast on the first day of Frieze with the same art publicist because he always has the skinny on the market and some good stories too. This time was no exception. He told me that one of the companies that he represents had opened a new gallery in a European capital – a space with no shopfront but rather tucked away on the first floor of a historic building. And here was the good bit: his job is to make sure that nobody writes about it. It’s going to be a secret, the location revealed only to the spenders of this world. Anyway, the address is…

On Monday and Tuesday, pre-Frieze, I was at Bloomberg Citylab in Amsterdam, an annual conference organised by Bloomberg Philanthropies that brings together mayors, civic leaders, urban planners and academics. It’s all super slick and a little scripted, and every mayor is perfectly media trained – although the off-stage conversations are more nuanced. One mayor had some frank words to say about the rhetoric on Ukraine that he was hearing. First, he said, cities that had taken in refugees were gaining willing workers, many of whom were taking unpopular, humble jobs. So, providing shelter to Ukrainians should not be presented as an act of charity but as a boost to the hosts’ economies. Second, many of these refugees would never return to Ukraine as their lives would become entwined with their adopted homes. This meant that while he believed that the talk of rebuilding Ukraine was important as a sign of solidarity, many small towns and villages would ultimately be abandoned. There would not be enough people returning to fill them up again.

Talking of cities and making homes, a quick plug. This week I interviewed Slovakian architect Petra Marko about a book that she has co-authored, Meanwhile City, which looks at how temporary interventions can reinvent a city. It’s a practical, inspiring guide and it has lots of pictures. The title is going into lots of European bookshops with a design bent but you can also find out more at I think that you’ll like it.

While in recommendation mode: Enric Pastor, former editor of AD España, has brought out a new Spanish-language interiors quarterly called Manera. It’s chunky, packed with Spanish residences and talks to a changed world of home-making in which sustainability and the things that surround us have taken on greater significance. You can find out more at and there’s an Instagram account too.

But back to Frieze. Despite the white walls of the pavilions, it’s easy to become visually overwhelmed. There’s too much to take in, so you’ll suddenly find yourself cruising past masterpieces, Roman statues and complex installations while distractedly pondering whether you could get away with all those shoes that look like glittery pigs’ trotters. You have to find a space to pause (may I recommend lunch at the pop-up Ham Yard Restaurant?). Or stop and talk to the gallery owners.

At the Ingleby stand I chatted with Florence Ingleby, who started telling me about some of the works that she was showing, including small, circular pictures by Antiguan artist Frank Walter, who died in 2009. Walter was an untrained artist and his talent has only been recognised following his death; that he lived his later life as a recluse and had extreme delusions of grandeur had never helped matters (he called himself the 7th Prince of the West Indies, Lord of Follies and the Ding-a-Ding Nook). Anyway, many years ago, Walter would regularly travel to Britain but on one trip was refused entry and was sent back to the West Indies. At this time he painted a series of small circular paintings – the view, real or imagined, out of a porthole window. And so, with Florence’s storytelling, a picture no bigger than a saucer stood out from all of the grand canvases. Words had made me see. The visual blur, freeze-framed for a second.

The Look / Xi Jinping

Strong suits

For all of the comparisons that are drawn between China’s president, Xi Jinping (pictured), and Mao Zedong, at least one thing still separates the two powerful leaders: their choice of attire (writes James Chambers). Chairman Mao wore zhongshan suits so often that the military-style tunics and matching trousers are now named after him. Though Xi often comes across as a throwback to an earlier era – launching crackdowns on foreign architecture, entertainment and other corrupting influences – the red revivalist still swears by Western business attire. Sure, he’ll throw on a Mao suit for ceremonial occasions and state dinners, just as Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao did before him, but when it comes to bossing the country he reaches into his closet for a dark European suit.

This will be the case tomorrow, when he strides into the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to give the opening speech at his party’s 20th national congress. The colour of his neckwear will be one of the few surprises in this heavily choreographed event, when China’s leader is expected to be handed a third term as president and perhaps a new title. Purple is his go-to hue, while blue comes out on occasion – including on the front cover of his book of speeches, The Governance of China.

Image: Getty Images

What certainly won’t happen is a repeat of the tieless, open-collar look that he adopted on his first visit to the US as president in 2013. The easy-going Obama White House even talked Xi into taking off his jacket for an ill-fated photo op that inspired all of those Winnie-the-Pooh comparisons. Nearly a decade later, US-China relations are icy and Xi is more buttoned-up than ever. After another 10 years at the top, his fashion sense could well go full Mao, along with his leadership style.

House News / ‘Portugal: The Monocle Handbook’

Rediscovered country

With its vibrant cities, rolling vineyards and rich history of design, Portugal has plenty more to offer visitors than sun, sea and sand – though it happens to do those three things very well too. The first in a new travel series, Portugal: The Monocle Handbook is a practical guide that introduces you to the best that the country has to offer.

Image: Tony Hay
Image: Tony Hay
Image: Tony Hay

This hardcover book reveals the most exciting places to eat, stay and shop, while highlighting the hoteliers reinventing the hospitality scene, the chefs plating up the tastiest dishes, and the creatives turning out quality products across the country, from Lisbon to the Azores. Should you wish to stay a little longer, our guide will also help you to find the neighbourhood that could become your new base and introduce you to some people who have already put down roots. So set course for Madeira, Alentejo, Faro or Porto and prepare to see this fascinating nation afresh.

Click here to order your copy of ‘Portugal: The Monocle Handbook’.

How We Live / Berlin showerheads

Clean break

A few weeks ago I visited Berlin for the first time since turning 30 (writes Alexis Self). I was determined, after at least three ignominious failures, to get into Berghain. Despite the nightclub’s notorious attempts to retain an aura of exclusivity, it has become a firm fixture on the city’s tourist trail – Berlin’s equivalent of the Louvre but with a bit more leather. This time my entry was all but guaranteed as a friend had put my name on the guest list. Getting in through the proverbial back door took some of the sheen off my achievement but I was overjoyed to tick it off my bucket list.

The following day, however, karmic justice was enacted. My girlfriend and I were staying at the apartment of an old friend of hers. As I shuffled around in the shower, I pushed the showerhead away from me so as to avoid its initial icy blast. Under the slightest pressure it snapped clean off and my hangover quadrupled in magnitude. I walked back into the bedroom bearing my shiny plastic error. My girlfriend was unimpressed. Instead of easing myself into the day, I now had to source a replacement showerhead in a foreign city on a Sunday afternoon.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

This is usually the section in a column when the writer chronicles a drawn-out ordeal. But all I had to do was go to the shop on the corner, show the man behind the counter the showerhead and buy an €11 replacement. I avoided too much interrogation of this easy outcome – don’t look a gift showerhead in the mouth – and it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I discovered the truth.

Recounting my tale to a Kreuzberg-based friend, I was stopped abruptly before the punchline. “Oh, yeah, showerheads always break in Berlin,” she said, before explaining how the elaborate ways that Berliners hold broken showers together (with elastic bands, duct tape, string) had even become a meme. I was a little crestfallen that my hangover hadn’t been saved through divine intervention but happy that I had experienced an authentic moment. Forget Berghain – you haven’t lived the true Berlin lifestyle until you’ve broken someone’s shower.

Monocle Concierge / Your Questions Answered

Highball lowdown

This week the Concierge was doing some important fieldwork in Singapore. If you feel like sending us anywhere, at least cosmically, click here for some discerning holiday tips. We will answer one question a week.

Dear Concierge,

A friend and I are planning our annual trip to Singapore. Do you have any recommendations for 72 hours in the Lion City?

Alex Tuman

Image: Khoo Guo Jie

Dear Alex,

Our favourite neighbourhood in Singapore at the moment is Joo Chiat, where you’ll find a perfect balance between colourful heritage shophouses and a dizzying array of food and drink options, from natural wine (we love Wine Mouth) to handmade pasta (try to snag a reservation at Forma). For lunch, it has to be Dickson Nasi Lemak, a bare-bones kiosk that uses a recipe from one of Malaysia’s best nasi lemak restaurants for the classic dish.

If it’s a meeting of old and new Singapore you’re after, check into The Clan Hotel in Chinatown, a new luxury offering with a 30th-floor pool, free walking tours of historic districts and a restaurant bar specialising in Chinese zodiac-inspired cocktails, such as the Snake – a mix of soju, umeshu, starfruit and lime.

Also worth a visit is Offtrack (pictured) on Canal Road, it has great highballs and pan-Asian dishes, such as scallop crudo with chilli oil and Thai beef tartare. Make sure to go at the weekend to catch one of Singapore’s many talented local DJs. Once you alight on the nondescript entrance, you’ll find some of the best cocktails in town at The Spiffy Dapper, which has no menu. Simply tell the seasoned bartenders what kind of drink you’d like and they’ll mix up something special.

If you can gain access, you shouldn’t miss The Straits Parlour on the third floor of the members-only Mandala Club, for late-night dancing and a hidden cigar lounge. There’s also 67 Pall Mall, a members’ club with a stellar rooftop whisky bar overlooking the city – the perfect way to end the night. Have fun!

Image: Alamy

Culture Cuts / Frieze Picks

Bright satellites

The bars and restaurants around Monocle’s Midori House in London were buzzing this week as the Frieze crowd swept into town. Alongside the main event, the UK capital was teeming with a multitude of shows encompassing every medium. Here’s our pick of the bunch.

Hilma af Klint in Regent’s Park, until 13 November
If you’re travelling between Frieze Masters and Frieze London this weekend, walk alongside the work of esteemed Swedish painter Hilma af Klint in Regent’s Park. Her bold and colourful paintings were largely unappreciated outside of Sweden for much of the 20th century but have undergone a revival in recent years, featuring in dedicated exhibitions at London’s Serpentine Gallery and the Guggenheim in New York. This augmented reality experience created by Acute Art is a unique opportunity to become immersed in the world of the abstract pioneer.

Amy Sherald at Hauser & Wirth, until 23 December
The US artist’s first solo show in Europe features a range of small-scale and monumental portraits across Hauser & Wirth’s two London galleries. Sherald’s work makes use of the grisaille technique, using mostly grey tones, in her recreations of skin tone. Her striking depictions of black subjects have made her a huge name in the US and her star seems set to rise higher in Europe with this joint display.

Cecilia Vicuña at Tate Modern, until 16 April
Chilean artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña is the latest to take on the challenge of filling Tate Modern’s vast Turbine Hall. “Brain Forest Quipu” (pictured) centres on a monumental pair of rope-and-wool sculptures that fall 27 metres, the full height of the space. They are threaded with found objects, creating intricately textured works that are accompanied by the sounds of nature, a choir and Vicuña’s own voice. The effect is a soft yet powerful spectacle that mourns the destruction of the rainforest, as well as violence against South America’s indigenous communities.

Urbanism / Utopian Hours, Turin

Spirit of reinvention

It has been a long time since Turin could call itself Italy’s capital but the city has been quietly securing its reputation as a centre of urban innovation for years (writes David Stevens). Yesterday marked the opening of the sixth Utopian Hours festival, bringing 70 top thinkers and doers to this corner of northern Italy.

The festival is the work of city-imaging association Torino Stratosferica, which has long extolled the virtues of Turin as a hotbed of experimentation. You need only look at Precollinear Park, which occupies an abandoned section of railway, for an example of the ways in which Turin is showing how to transform old infrastructure into considered public space.

“Turin could be the cradle of a culture of urban innovation in Italy,” Torino Stratosferica’s founder, Luca Ballarini, tells The Monocle Weekend Edition. “It’s in our DNA. We know how to be a big city and we have this great spirit of entrepreneurship. It’s what Torinese are best at.”

Utopian Hours runs until tomorrow at La Centrale, Nuvola Lavazza. For a full list of events, head to

Fashion Update / Villa Noailles, France

Riviera elegance

Aged just 21, Jean-Pierre Blanc had a dream (writes Mary Fitzgerald). He would create an international festival of fashion in his hometown of Hyères on France’s Mediterranean coast. Almost four decades later, the annual event has not only become a renowned springboard for emerging designers but also grown to encompass prestigious photography and fashion accessory competitions. Recognition at Hyères has propelled the careers of several now-famous designers, including Viktor&Rolf, along with the artistic directors of many leading fashion houses.

Image: JeanPicon / Say Who

The 37th International Festival of Fashion, Photography and Accessories takes place this weekend at Villa Noailles, where Blanc has been director since 2003. The storied modernist residence-turned-art centre, which overlooks the old town, marks its centenary next year. Opening the current festival in Villa Noailles’ gardens on Thursday, Blanc said that the gathering was “all about joy, enthusiasm, the strength of youth and discovery”. Also in attendance was Diesel’s creative director, Glenn Martens, who is presiding over the jury for this year’s fashion competition. Winners at Hyères receive grants and long-term support from the festival’s partners, which include Chanel, LVMH, Hermès and American Vintage.

A retrospective of Martens’ work has been assembled around the swimming pool at Villa Noailles. Meanwhile, displays inside the historic venue include a room devoted to finalists of the Hermès prize for fashion accessories who have reimagined the classic Hermès belt. The energetic Blanc has masterminded several other initiatives in the area: he founded the Design Parade festival in Hyères and also an interiors-focused sister event in nearby Toulon.

This weekend’s programme includes shows and masterclasses. Festival exhibitions will remain open to the public at Villa Noailles until 27 November 27 2022. For more information, visit:


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