Monday. 6/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Prince and the legislation

Court rulings rarely elicit juicy debates about the nature of art, authorship or authenticity – but the US Supreme Court is poised to make a judgement on precisely these ideas. The current farrago concerns the merits and pitfalls of reproducing a print by Andy Warhol and its potential repercussions have spooked some of the world’s biggest museums, from the Guggenheim to the Getty.

In 1984, Warhol made a series of silkscreen portraits of the musician Prince for Vanity Fair, using as his template a picture that photographer Lynn Goldsmith says she licensed to the magazine for single use. When Condé Nast published one of Warhol’s images after Prince’s death in 2016, Goldsmith challenged its right to have done so. The Andy Warhol Foundation disagreed and it has now fallen to the Supreme Court to decide who’s right. The outcome could influence an artist’s or publisher’s rights to take, use and reinterpret the work of others to create something new.

The court’s decision is pending but even in its current form, the case reveals the depleted levels of common sense in public discussion. The idea of appropriation casts a long shadow but can anyone seriously imagine the history of art without it? What about music, literature or film?

Let’s be pragmatic. Borrowing, reproducing and altering images, lyrics or ideas is part of the necessary push and pull of culture. Legal nuance – of which there is some – aside, the Supreme Court’s decision should leave wiggle room for artists, creatives and thinkers to be influenced by works around them. The verdict should acknowledge that doing so can create something new, original and worthwhile in the process. To fence off contemporary culture with inflexible copyright laws would be to mistake Warhol for a soup salesman.

Josh Fehnert is Monocle’s editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images

Security / Somalia

Conflicted states

Joe Biden has affirmed the US’s continued backing of Ukraine but it’s not the only conflict in which America is currently embroiled. The country is increasing its military support for Somalia in its fight against Islamist al-Shabaab militants; last week more than 60 tonnes of weapons and ammunition arrived in Mogadishu. Such Western involvement in wars in Africa have a global significance, Stig Jarle Hansen, senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, tells The Monocle Minute. “We shouldn’t detach this conflict from the new cold war between the US and Russia,” he says. “Countries in Africa will seek allies that deliver. One reason why Russia is [influential] in Mali, for example, is the failure of the West: France was there for almost 10 years without delivering a victory and that has added to anti-Western sentiment. And who came in to replace France? It was the Russian Wagner Group.”

Aviation / Germany

Rarefied air

The seats at the front of more than 80 of Lufthansa’s planes are on a flight path to even greater comfort, thanks to the German flag-carrier’s new Allegris long-haul cabins (pictured), shown for the first time in Berlin last week. The airline will invest €2.25bn by 2025 in 14 seating types, ranging from an improved economy class with more legroom to the vast “First Class Suite Plus”, which has extra-wide seats that can be combined into a bed.

“It was about giving passengers choice,” says Daniel MacInnes, director of London-based Priestman Goode, which is behind the design. The project, alongside new First Class cabins from Swiss and Qantas, shows that not all airlines are in a race to the bottom to save space and cut costs: good news as air traffic makes its ascent back to pre-pandemic levels. It’s a timely reminder that travel is still about the journey as well as the destination.

Image: Maria Klenner

Culture / Iraq

Out of the ashes

During the occupation of Mosul by Islamic State (IS) between 2014 and 2017, the simple act of owning an instrument was enough to get you killed. That makes this spring’s renovation of the once-ruined Al-Rabea Theatre even more heartening. “People thought that we were crazy [for playing music when] there was no electricity or water and the buildings needed to be rebuilt,” musician Hakam Anas Zarari tells Monocle in our March issue.

Three years ago he and a group of like-minded musicians co-founded the Watar Orchestra. “For us, this was revenge against IS,” he says. The restoration of the Al-Rabea Theatre is a symbol of hope and rebirth for Mosul, where new cafés and restaurants are starting to crop up and artisans are setting up shop in the old centre. “We want people to see the greater face of Mosul,” says Zarari. “It’s not just war and destruction here.”

For more on Mosul’s Watar Orchestra and much more besides, buy a copy of our March issue, which is on the newsstands now, or subscribe today.

Image: Getty Images

Retail / Canada

Hasty retreat

Department store chain Nordstrom is shuttering all 13 of its outposts in Canada after struggling to reach profitability, the company announced last week. The Seattle-based firm revealed a 4.1 per cent fall in sales year on year, while fourth-quarter net earnings fell from $200m (€188m) to $119m (€112m).

Nordstrom’s CEO, Erik Nordstrom, said in the announcement that the “difficult decision” to “right-size” the chain’s inventory would help to position it for “greater agility”. But its decision to exit Canada is an ominous sign and about 2,330 staff members will lose their jobs. Amid the gloom, there might be a silver lining: though many department stores are struggling, sales of the luxury goods that they stock have remained buoyant. That might leave space for a competitor with vision to fill the gap and clean up.

Image: Nick Prendeville

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

‘Fashion Reimagined’, Slow Spain, Material Reform

Designer Amy Powney discusses new documentary Fashion Reimagined, which charts her journey to make her clothing label sustainable, and we visit Madrid Design Festival. Plus: research practice Material Cultures details the importance of bio-based materials in construction.

Monocle Films / Paris

How to enjoy life

Join us for a whirlwind tour around the cobbled streets, cocktail bars and jazz lounges of Paris to explore how to enjoy the small things in life and find out why hedonism (in moderation) matters.

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