Saturday 28 January 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 28/1/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

The high life

Start your weekend right with our Saturday newsletter featuring New York literary highlights and the concierge’s tasty recommendations for Lake Como. Plus: our shopping wishlist includes Michael Schumacher’s Formula 1 car and the chic woollen caps spotted at top European fashion weeks. But first, Andrew Tuck shares his thoughts on saucy salt pots and diplomatic pouches…

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Diplomatic appendages

A willy on the wall? A wanger with your martini? On Monday night there was a dinner to celebrate the birthday of our Zürich-based CFO, Anna. It was hosted by Tyler at the Mount Street Restaurant in one of its private rooms. The whole set-up is owned by the Hauser & Wirth gallery folk and there’s a main restaurant on the first floor, private dining and drinking rooms on the floors above (our dinner was appropriately in the Swiss Room) and, on the ground floor, a proper London pub. And when you are one of the world’s most successful private galleries (and with a penchant for peerless hospitality), what ends up on the walls rises above mere decoration.

As the maître’d helped us find our spot, he took time to point out the Picasso, the Freud, a Matisse. It’s a museum collection sitting atop an old boozer. And it’s not twee or unchallenging. The restaurant’s salt and pepper cruets take inspiration from artist Paul McCarthy’s Tree sculpture that caused a furore when the original 24 metre-high version, clearly modelled on a butt plug (sorry, I know it’s Saturday morning but just relax, we’re all friends here), was unveiled in Place Vendôme in Paris in October 2014. Anyway, there are now miniature silver versions on the tables to help you season your dish. And the penis? Well, that’s in the Games Room, a bar available to hire, which includes a picture by the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe of said appendage. Really, it’s all pretty amazing – and you only get to the penis after dinner, if you want it.

It’s not that revealing but I have one slightly saucy picture in my house. A million years ago I went with the restaurateur Oliver Peyton to the Sadie Coles gallery here in London and there was a show on by the US photographer Jeff Burton who had taken a series of concocted scenes from, well, porn shoots. Burton’s focus, however, was less on the bodies and more on the settings: the pools and very ordinary houses where such movies are made. And the colours are rich and saturated like a William Eggleston photo. Anyway, Oliver bought a couple and somehow, in his spending ease, I did too. Mine is all plaid blanket, a hand removing a sock, the leg of someone lying down in the background and it still hangs in our guest bedroom (well, you might as well give them something to dream about). This is the room where my partner’s late aunt used to stay. I remember, the night before her first sleepover at our then new house, suggesting to my other half that perhaps we should take it down for the duration but in the end we let it remain. Next morning, she told us that it was her favourite picture in our house. “I love that photo of the gentleman at a picnic,” she said to us over the breakfast spread. I have a feeling she knew exactly what was occurring.

The art is far more tasteful at the residence of the Turkish ambassador to Britain. Monocle’s offices in Marylebone are surrounded by various high commissions, consulate outposts and ample ambassadorial digs and we make a point of inviting our diplo neighbours to events at Midori House and also for lunches where Chatham House Rules firmly apply.

The current Turkish ambassador is Ümit Yalçin; we have met him on several occasions and I am pleased to say he’s a Monocle reader. He returns to Ankara in the coming weeks, however, and will be leaving the service, so on Tuesday, in recognition of a very honest and interesting connection, he generously invited a group of Monoclers to his home for a meal prepared by the embassy’s cook. Now, many nations are embracing laptop diplomacy whereby their staff get a computer and a place in a serviced office as a way to cut costs. By doing so they miss out on being able to offer a deep dive into what their nation stands for – really, cheesy börek can do wonders for achieving global influence.

As we were leaving the ambassador showed us some of the photographs on the walls: a shot of the embassy team from the 1960s; Queen Elizabeth walking up the mansion’s staircase. The grand building was purchased in the early 1900s to house the Ottoman empire’s representative in London and it is still proving a good investment.

Also this week, Monocle hosted a breakfast for about 30 diplomatic press attachés representing everywhere from Angola to Finland, Austria to Mexico. It was amazing to meet so many people in one coffee-and-sticky-bun fuelled sitting and all had fascinating stories to tell. One of them even thought I was Tyler (seeing as he’s younger than me, I am taking this as a deep compliment). And last week, I mentioned that our foreign editor had misplaced his swimming trunks at the Finnish embassy during one of their “sauna diplomacy” sessions. Well, the Finnish press attaché arrived with them in a paper bag (a very Finnish, environmentally friendly diplomatic pouch). I wonder if that gets added to the weekly notes sent back to Helsinki?

The Look / Winter caps

Plan a head

Once the preserve of mailmen and undercover cops, baseball caps have undergone a reinvention of late (writes Jack Simpson). Chic woollen versions were ubiquitous in Florence and Paris among the Pitti Uomo and Men’s Fashion Week crowds this month. After years of universal beanie uptake and the decline of formal headwear, it’s nice to see brims return to heads during the colder months. A winter baseball cap transcends the smart and casual, the incognito and statement. Darker tones deflect attention (both meteorological and social) while bright hues or logos introduce a bit of fun to smart tailoring.

Image: Alamy

Unfortunately, old winter hat favourites like the fedora or homburg seem to be consigned to history along with their wearers. But perhaps the winter cap might be a stalking horse for a return to more brim-filled times. Here, at Midori House, the look is even winning over former baseball-cap sceptics like Sophie Grove, editor of Monocle’s sister publication, Konfekt. Sophie’s donning of a woollen bottle green Raf Simons x Kvadrat cap feels like a ringing endorsement for the future of the look – or perhaps she’s just been cast in the new series of Succession?

How we live / Literary Tastes

Turning the page

Library shelves in several parts of the US are complicated places at the moment (writes Tomos Lewis). The number of titles banned from public and school libraries grew in 2022 according to PEN America as a result of campaigns led by conservative groups. And the American Library Association says that it expects that roster to swell in size this year too.

But inside the famous, lion-flanked entrance to the main branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL) is one collection of artefacts that quietly serves as a welcome reminder of what libraries were set up to do. The Polonsky Collection of Treasures, which was unveiled as its own permanent exhibition in September 2021, brings together a miscellany of the some 56 million objects and artefacts that the library’s network has collected since it was established in 1895. The exhibition is unusual because it is a broad and eclectic interpretation of what you might expect a library collection’s remit to be.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

The stuffed toys that AA Milne is said to have given to his son, Christopher, which inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, are here. As is Charles Dickens’ writing table; a lock of Beethoven’s hair; and a screen print of a ticket to Studio 54 that Andy Warhol made for the writer Truman Capote. Across the gallery from Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the US Declaration of Independence is one of the first photographs of the surface of the moon and, near that, a miniature 19th-century edition of the Qur’an with each of its pages delicately cut into the shape of a leaf.

The star of the collection is, fittingly, a book: the 1962 picture book The Snowy Day by American children’s writer and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats. It features in the exhibition because it is the most-borrowed title in the library network’s history, having been checked out more than 485,000 times. (The curators even went to the effort to track down NYPL’s most borrowed copy which they traced to a branch in the Bronx).

But The Snowy Day was banned in the 1960s because of its depiction of a black child as the story’s protagonist. The book’s place among the NYPL’s treasures is a good reminder that well-run public libraries are a beacon of hope in uncertain times.

Monocle Concierge / Your Questions Answered

Shore thing

The Concierge’s aim is to ensure you are fully furnished with the best recommendations for your next trip. If you are going somewhere and would like a list of places to stay, things to see and salubrious spots at which to get the best food and drink, click here. We will answer one question each week.

Image: Marina Denisova, Finn Beales
Image: Marina Denisova, Finn Beales

Dear Concierge,

Any recommendations for Florence and its environs or the Lake Como area would be most gratefully received.

Kind regards,
Martha Black

Dear Martha,

You’ve picked a perfect urban-rural Italian mix. In Florence, enjoy a taste of the city’s contemporary culture with a stay at Numeroventi, an arts residence in a 16th-century palazzo with modern interiors worthy of a Scandinavian capital. For dining, the superlative Enoteca Bruni, with one of the best-stocked natural wine cellars in Italy, makes magic out of local ingredients. Skip the junk peddlers around the city’s main sights and check out Florence’s rich offering of artisan ateliers, such as Antica Occhialeria and its handmade eyewear; Castorina, where wood is carved into charming pieces of decor; and Moleria Locchi with its elegantly decorated drinking glasses. For a day trip, try lovely Lucca, where Giglio and its sister bistro, Gigliola, offer excellent food.

On Lake Como, avoid overcrowded Bellagio but don’t skip the ferry, which offers dreamy boat rides to key points along the shore. These include the very pretty town of Varenna, whose botanic gardens at Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero are excellent for a calming stroll from springtime onwards, as well as the stunning gardens at Villa del Balbianello and Villa Carlotta across the lake. Lake Como is also home to one of Italy’s most glorious new hotels, the Passalacqua in Montrasio, which transformed an 18th-century private residence into a luxury resort while perfecting its antique glamour and reopens for bookings in March. Buon viaggio!

Interrogator / Amalia Ulman

Religious observer

Argentinian artist and filmmaker Amalia Ulman’s work spans video, installation and performance and has been shown at London’s Tate Modern and New York’s MoMA (writes Paco Herzog). Her debut film, El Planeta, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2021. Here, she tells us about her upcoming solo show and love of French cinema.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with the headlines?
Yerba mate.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?
Yes. Paradiso in Gijón and bookstands in the Rivadavia Park in Buenos Aires.

What is the best thing you’ve seen recently?
Ari Aster’s Beau is Afraid.

And what have you been working on?
My upcoming feature film and a solo show that opens on 28 January at Jenny’s contemporary art gallery in New York.

Favourite all-time film?
La règle du jeu by Jean Renoir.

And what’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
I rewatch Seinfeld episodes before falling asleep in the same way that other people read the Bible. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is my Virgin Mary.

Culture Cuts / Listen, Read, Visit

The bee’s knees

‘Honey’, Samia. Born in Los Angeles to a Lebanese-American family and now based in New York, Samia Najimi Finnerty makes impeccable indie-pop with a generous helping of caustic humour. Honey is a gem of an album that ranges from the melancholy of the Phoebe Bridgers-style “Kill Her Freak Out” to the pure danceability of “Mad at Me”, made in collaboration with Minneapolis-based Senegalese-Gambian artist Papa Mbye.

‘Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World’, Irene Vallejo. Spanish author Irene Vallejo has penned Papyrus in an attempt to continue and trace the adventures of past book hunters. This elegant and immersive history of books and libraries in the ancient world tells the tale of the written word through the stories of scribes, statesmen and illuminators. A sprawling and spirited exploration of literary culture and traditions.

‘Only Strangers Can Enter the Shore of Strangers (But Everyone is a Stranger)’, Kana Kawanishi, Tokyo. In their new exhibition, artist Takeshi Fujimura and poet Naha Kanie tackle the slippery, treacherous word “stranger” to understand what leads people to create barriers with one another. With their text-based works (ranging from designs for picket signs to art books) they explore how intimacy can bridge alienation, what makes someone feel like an outsider and what social consequences that can cause.

Fashion / Extreme Cashmere

Soft power

Amsterdam-based knitwear label Extreme Cashmere is taking residence on London’s Chiltern Street until March in what is its first attempt at physical retail (writes Natalie Theodosi). The brand is a guest of Ssōne, a permanent resident which often lends its space to fellow labels with a similar appreciation for high quality and craft.

It was a perfect chance for founder Saskia Dijkstra to open a space that could house Extreme Cashmere’s full collection and allow customers to appreciate the quality of her signature knits, made using the highest quality Mongolian fabrics. Dijkstra was designing pieces for luxury brands such as Joseph and Jil Sander for more than 20 years before she started her own label. Extreme Cashmere offers more up-to-date silhouettes, a bigger variety of colours and 100 per cent cashmere fabrications, going against the industry norms of adding elastane to reduce manufacturing costs.

The temporary shop has a calming feel with incense burning as friendly shopkeepers stack rows of jumpers and matching trousers against an all-white backdrop. Drop by for some last-minute winter shopping and expert cashmere care tips; I know I will.

What Am I Bid? / Schumacher’s Jordan

Driving a hard bargain

It wasn’t the fastest Formula One car that Michael Schumacher ever drove but it was the first (writes Andrew Mueller). Days before the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, the upstart Jordan team suffered one of the more picturesque disruptions in F1 history: their French-Belgian driver Bertrand Gachot was jailed in the UK for a road-rage incident. Scrambling to fill Gachot’s seat, Jordan took a punt on an up-and-coming 22-year-old German called Michael Schumacher.

Image: Getty Images

The Jordan 191 that Schumacher drove that weekend is being offered for auction by Bonhams on Thursday. It isn’t the car he used in qualifying (a commendable seventh) or in the race (a less commendable first-lap retirement with a burned clutch) but it is the chassis in which he clocked an eyebrow-arching eighth-fastest time in free practice, announcing the arrival of a significant talent. His journey to seven FIA Formula One World Championships began in this vehicle (none of those titles, admittedly, were won with Jordan for whom Schumacher never raced again).

The best part is that the car still works. The 191 was taken for a spin by Schumacher’s driver son, Mick, at Britain’s Silverstone circuit in 2021 to mark 30 years since his father’s legendary debut. Bonhams expect bids up to €2m, which may tempt the entry-level Schumacher collector; last November, a Ferrari in which Schumacher won seven races fetched six times that amount.


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