Friday 2 December 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 2/12/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Art Basel

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Putting the art in ‘party’

There’s plenty of paint and canvas at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach. What’s far less in abundance? Screens, augmented-reality art and excessive talk of NFTs. The 20th anniversary of one of America’s most-ambitious art fairs runs until Sunday in Miami, a city that became a focal point for digital currencies prior to the crypto winter that we now find ourselves in (the basketball arena is rather awkwardly named after scandal-ridden crypto exchange FTX). In contrast to 2021’s fair, when even the most reluctant gallerists were being urged to get on the NFT bandwagon, it feels as though the sugar rush is over, replaced by a yearning for the tangible, the handmade, the solid.

“It’s refreshing,” one San Francisco gallerist tells me, in the throes of a healthy trade on the day-two vernissage. Indeed, beyond crypto’s travails, the broader economic headwinds of the moment have yet to fully reach Biscayne Bay. On the opening night, there was a $7m (€6.7m) sale of a 1998 work by Agnes Martin, among other hefty but never absurd deals.

“Oh, my God, look at those bathing suits!” is a common refrain in the Meridians section, which is host to large-scale work that wouldn’t fit in the booths. They include an assemblage by Brazilian artist Jonathas de Andrade, who spent about 10 years collecting discarded Speedos on a beach in Recife and has now squeezed them onto clay torsos. The curator of this section, Magalí Arriola of Mexico City’s Museo Tamayo, thinks that the emphasis on materiality and handmade media comes from a renewed desire to engage with older forms with deeper roots. She might well be right.

But enough about the art because we all know that it’s only one side of the story at Art Basel Miami Beach. It’s equally important to get on the right party list and there’s no sign that this year’s bashes are following the lead of the art and unplugging. Speaking of which, there’s a wristband across town with my name on it.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Canada

Split decisions

Alberta’s new conservative premier, Danielle Smith (pictured), has dropped her first legislative bombshell since becoming provincial leader in October and it has many Canadians squirming. The snappily named Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act was tabled to allow the province to skirt federal laws and policies considered harmful to its interests (think carbon tax and gun regulation). The proposal evokes memories of the Québécois separatism movement that blossomed in the early 1960s and was followed by decades of tension, referendums and push-pull policies. While Québec’s attempts at sovereignty were culturally motivated, Alberta’s qualms are economic: the oil-rich province contributes more to Canada’s GDP than any other. That has spurred some Albertans to call for independence. For now the bill seems unlikely to result in a split but Smith should tread lightly. The subject of divorced provinces doesn’t go down well in an otherwise cohesive nation.

Image: Getty Images

Education / Nigeria

Minding your language

A new Nigerian government initiative aimed at the nation’s primary schools will promote teaching in local languages rather than English. The National Language Policy stipulates that the instruction of pupils in their first six years of schooling will now be in their mother tongue. Implementing the policy could prove tricky: English is Nigeria’s official language and the common language of teaching, and more than 500 languages are spoken in the country.

Despite the challenges, Nigeria is not the first West African nation to promote its own languages over those that were imposed upon it by colonisation. In Mali, 13 local tongues have national status but only French has the distinction of being an official language and is therefore used in government business, on road signs and in broadcasts. It’s clear that the languages spoken across Africa have a resonance that goes beyond words.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Mexico City

Ringing the changes

As Christmas approaches, Mexico City’s bullfighting ring, the world’s largest, usually enjoys a particularly busy season – but not this year, as a result of a court ruling in place since June that has banned the sport on grounds of animal cruelty. Fans of corridas can still travel to other parts of Mexico to see fights and eight states are trying to derail any attempt at a clampdown by declaring bullfighting part of their cultural heritage.

Beyond the ruling’s potential economic implications, there is a clear cultural shift in Mexico. Politicians and civil society are challenging bullfighting as part of a global slide in the sport’s popularity (even if France recently failed to ban such events in the south of the country). According to El País, young people are no longer interested. “They prefer football, the cinema and video games,” it writes. Perhaps now is the time for activists to take the bull by the horns.

Image: Iwan Baan

Culture / Sydney

Frame of reference

Sydney’s harbourfront is being augmented this weekend with the opening of the Sydney Modern Project. The standalone building will almost double the exhibition space of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, one of Australia’s largest public art museums. The complex of interposed limestone pavilions was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects from Japanese studio Sanaa. It features numerous rooftop terraces and outdoor courtyards, glass walls and lifts with views of the Sydney harbour and skyline, and an underground exhibition hall made from a Second World War fuel tank.

The architects prioritised environmental concerns, adding solar panels and a rainwater-harvesting system to the complex, which is entirely powered by renewable energy. The Sydney Modern Project, touted as Australia’s answer to London’s Tate Modern, will introduce permanent collections of Australian Aboriginal art and several new exhibits and installations. If it lives up to the hype, Sydney will rival London and New York as one of the world’s capitals of modern art.

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

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Monocle Films / Sweden

Sweden’s Arctic: green innovation

Norrbotten in Sweden is blessed with natural resources but more recently has been turning heads because of its growing roster of innovative start-ups. We bear witness to the region's effort to change heavy industries into clean businesses.


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