Saturday 14 October 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 14/10/2023

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Down to a fine art

We begin this weekend people-watching in the marquees of Frieze London with our editor in chief, Andrew Tuck, before getting our kicks from New Balance’s latest iteration of its iconic trainers, taking a dip in a Zürich lake and casting our eye over the covetable art and furniture once owned by mysterious collectors at a London auction.

Image: Mathieu de Muizon

The opener / Andrew Tuck

Easel does it

The gallery owner retrieves a canvas from his booth’s storage space at the Frieze London art fair and then holds it aloft for his potential client to inspect. As he does so, he begins to tell the story of the painter’s life, from his time in New York to the contemporaries who shaped his oeuvre. After several minutes of fascinating explanation – and yours truly eavesdropping for a free lesson in art history – the woman’s response is less referenced but to the point. “I like where he’s coming from,” she says.

Frieze London, the art fair’s original iteration, is celebrating its 20th anniversary and its effect on the British capital over the past two decades has been immense. Not only does it pull in the world’s best galleries and collectors but, beyond the marquees in Regent’s Park, it’s the touchpaper for many of the city’s auction houses, museums and smaller art operations to get in on the act with shows, lunches and soirées. I like the swagger of London when it’s in Frieze-hosting mode – it feels a little like Milan when furniture fair Salone del Mobile is on.

It’s also worth attending for the crowd. Frieze has two tent encampments in the park: to the south is Frieze London, home of the contemporary art galleries; across the park, near the zoo, is Frieze Masters, where you’ll discover everything from medieval church sculptures and Elisabeth Frink statues to dinosaur skeletons and Joan Mirós. To switch locations, many attendees walk through the park, though there are many drivers hovering around to ensure that their employers can be shuttled away without the fear of having to come across any mud. It makes for a glorious walking parade: Italian Old-Master gallerists in Neapolitan suits, confident displays of gender-defying dressing, the richly coiffured and a lot of very cool kids. The march north to the Masters area feels like a world of colourful beasts heading back to the zoo after a day out.

But understanding the art that you are seeing (let alone grappling with what you make of this Large Hadron Collider-style collision of beauty and money) is oddly hard. Frieze is vast, every booth firing off ideas in different directions. At some point, your brain starts flashing, “Memory full.” It’s why many find the Masters event – less harried and with better-designed stands – so soothing. And it’s why all that some folk can say after seeing a painting is, “I like where he’s coming from.”

And yet, things do make you pause: a painting by Ben Nicholson, another by Paule Vézelay. An embroidered map of the world by Alighiero Boetti and Grayson Perry’s tapestry of a car crash, “Lamentation”. A mask by Yinka Shonibare. I could help you spend your money.

There’s something else this week that makes looking at all of this work, cocooned inside white canvas of the tent, feel strangely detached. The atrocities in Israel and Gaza make you think about the power and relevance of art – about bathing in all this often mad, daring, whimsical creativity when your TV screens are full of such terror.

Then a set of pictures stops you. On one wall of the Sfeir-Semler Gallery’s stand is a set of old studio photographs manipulated by renowned Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari. They are of militiamen posing with their weapons and were taken during the Lebanese civil war – except Zaatari has erased the guns, leaving white space where they once were.

The series is called Victims of Prolonged Struggle. I find an interview in which Zaatari explains that, during the war, “West Beirut fell into the hands of gangs under the pretext of the liberation of Palestine. I withdrew the guns from the photographs of fighters because I wanted to deprive them of the main purpose of taking the picture.” Suddenly it feels as though the world outside this glorious bubble isn’t so far away after all, that art will eventually be able to reflect on this week of terror and have something to say about the killers, their guns, the victims. It can’t make sense of the senseless but it can take a stand and make us look beyond the rolling news to envision a different version of life.

Tickets to Frieze London and Frieze Masters are available here.

The Look / New Balance 991v2

Sole searching

You can imagine the scene: a group of dynamic, youthful branding experts throwing around names, trying to decide who would be the perfect ambassador for the latest iteration of one of their brand’s all-time best-selling sports shoe. Suddenly someone comes up with a radical idea: what about a chef in his sixties with a grey beard who is good with a knife? Yes! But then this is no ordinary shoe, no ordinary chef.

Launched by New Balance, the Boston-headquartered brand, in 2001, the 991 has enjoyed a great run. It’s a shoe whose wearers span all generations and is popular in the creative industries. If Dieter Rams had been a sports-shoe designer, this is surely the footwear that he would have made.

Image: New Balance
Image: New Balance

Since the 1980s, New Balance has had a manufacturing presence in the Cumbrian town of Flimby, England. It’s here that a new version of the shoe, the 991v2, has been made. The trainers feature a more streamlined shape, which has been honed under the guidance of Sam Pearce, New Balance’s creative design manager for Made in UK.

To mark the release, the company has shot a film that follows the delivery of a pair of 991v2 shoes – by car, tram and foot – from the Flimby factory to an Italian customer. And it’s a customer who encapsulates the brand’s creative appeal and good taste: chef Massimo Bottura (pictured top). As it turns out, no brainstorming was needed to select him. He already has more than 100 pairs of New Balance shoes.

Image: Mathieu de Muizon

How we live / The last lake swimmers

Take the plunge

Autumn has arrived in Zürich, with porcini and marroni (chestnuts) turning up on restaurant menus across the city (writes Annabelle Chapman). But the appearance of these delicacies doesn’t mean that lake-swimming season is over yet. Last Friday, at the conclusion of a reporting trip that landed me in Switzerland’s largest city, I stepped into the Seebad Utoquai bathhouse, a short walk from the Monocle Shop and Café at 90 Dufourstrasse. It was buzzing. A sign at the entrance displayed the water temperature: 20C. “You should go in and enjoy the water,” said the man at the reception, handing me a towel.

Outdoor swimming in the lake or in the Limmat river is a staple of daily life in Zürich, with badi and open-air public baths dotted around the city. While the season peaks in the summer, it doesn’t grind to a halt at the first sign of cold weather: the Utoquai bathhouse, for example, is open daily from mid-April until 29 October. During my visit, heads bobbed in the water outside, dappled by the evening light. I climbed down the ladder, feeling the sun on my skin. The water was perfect. As I swam towards the raft anchored in the lake, the remains of the day washed away. On the bathhouse’s warm wooden boards, locals of all ages sunned themselves, reading magazines or chatting with friends.

As the sun set on the other side of the lake and swimmers hauled themselves out of the water, thoughts turned to dinner. You don’t have to go far because dishes such as fondue are on the bathhouse’s menu until the end of the season. You’ll also find me at the Seebad Enge, another favourite spot on the lake, in which you can cool off after spending time in the sauna. For now, I’ll be soaking in every golden evening as though it were the last – and you should too.

To see what swimming in the Limmat river looks like, see our new film about dipping and diving in Zürich here. We made it to encourage you to purchase a copy of our book ‘Swim & Sun: A Monocle Guide’.

Image: Francisco Nogueira

The Interrogator / Mircea Anghel

Grape minds

If you’re in the UK capital this weekend, be sure to add Pad London to your itinerary. The event, which runs alongside Frieze and wraps up tomorrow, is a showcase of furniture and wares from leading galleries and designers. Among them this year is Portugal-based furniture-maker Mircea Anghel; in his workshop in a grand sawmill on a vineyard-lined estate south of Lisbon, he has made a new selection of cabinets and tables from wood, stone and metal. Here, Anghel tells us about his end-of-week rituals and how he likes to start the day.

Why is showing your work at Pad London important?
It’s something that I have wanted to do for a long time. I came across Pad Paris about five years ago while working in finance. I was at a bad point in my career and when I went to the show, I thought, “Wow, I want to do this.”

Which of your forthcoming projects should we be keeping an eye on?
I’m currently taking on the long-term redevelopment of a property close to my studio, which is a combination of an art residency and a hotel, and has a focus on ecology. I want it to be a paradise in which artists, designers and scientists can explore their creativity. It’s a way of developing a property without destroying the landscape.

What news source do you wake up to?
I spend at least 10 minutes enjoying my surroundings before looking at the news. I like to gaze across the river and listen to the birds. Then I open Bloomberg. It’s important to understand what’s happening around me.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
I’ll smoke a cigarette and have a double espresso.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
I’m a Soundcloud person. I have a big sound system in my studio and joke with my team that I’m their DJ. We use music to find the right mood for the work that we’re doing, whether it’s finishing a project or trying something new.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
The shower is where I talk to myself and try to analyse what I’m doing with my family, with my colleagues and with my work. It’s my psychologist and it wouldn’t feel right to be humming there.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?
I like to buy books about designers rather than magazines. I draw on them and use them as notebooks. I feel a bit guilty – as though it’s some sort of pagan ritual – but it’s exciting to work on top of other people’s work.

Going anywhere nice this year?
I always have clients in amazing locations. This month I’m heading to Mont Blanc and the south of France. I’ll also go to Morocco with my family. I lived there when I was younger and like to take my kids.

What’s on the airwaves before bed?
Indian flute music. Sometimes I sleep with music playing and the windows open, as long as there are no mosquitos. At the end of the week, I also like to look at all of the things that I wrote and have a long conversation with my wife, who is a neuroscientist. This is always with a glass of wine – I have a wine business too and the vineyards are in front of my studio.

Culture cuts / Read, watch, listen

Hot and heavy

‘Madonna’, Mary Gabriel. Tracing Madonna’s career from her roots in Michigan to global pop stardom, the Pulitzer Prize finalist and former Reuters journalist Mary Gabriel’s biography is thorough, evocative and direct. Few writers have managed to do the star’s career justice but, brimming with detail and sociological precision, Gabriel’s 880-page doorstopper comes close.

‘Smoke Sauna Sisterhood’, Anna Hints. Estonian film-maker Anna Hints’ award-winning documentary explores the healing properties of sauna culture in the Võro community. Following a group of women as they come together to cleanse their bodies and share stories, the film highlights the importance of communal gatherings. We learn that it is often by talking to other people that we reach our most private revelations.

‘Goodnight Summerland’, Helena Deland. In Goodnight Summerland, Montreal-based singer Helena Deland leaves behind the ambient sounds of her previous album, Someone New, to make a more straightforward record. Written in the aftermath of her mother’s death, her songs evoke images of nature and Canada’s pastoral landscapes and their lyrics tackle grief indirectly – but it’s Deland’s quietest moments that feel the most poignant.

Fashion update / Rabih Kayrouz

Stitch in time

The Frieze London art fair, which is taking place this week, is becoming an important gathering for fashion designers – especially those who count discerning art professionals as customers. Lebanese-born designer Rabih Kayrouz, who takes an artistic approach to fashion, has unveiled his new spring 2024 collection at his Mount Street boutique to coincide with Frieze.


His new designs include poetic couture creations, such as a featherlight tulle dress that has been hand-embroidered with verses from Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. The Paris-based designer, who is also focusing on expanding his ready-to-wear range, offers impeccably tailored blazers, floor-length shirt dresses and maxi skirts. Alongside his elegant designs, Kayrouz is presenting the work of Tamar Hadechian, a Lebanese-Armenian ceramicist known for her one-of-a-kind, handcrafted clay wares. The idea was to create a dialogue between the two creatives’ works, which are tied together by a mutual appreciation for artisanal quality. “Every motif is a chapter in the story of human connection,” says Hadechian.


What am I bid? / ‘Eclectic Eye’, Artcurial

King’s ransom

Most of us, when seeking to declutter our living spaces, have to pay someone to take our rubbish away (writes Andrew Mueller). It’s sobering, then, to contemplate Artcurial’s Eclectic Eye sale on 20 October: 167 lots from one London apartment, owned by clearly discerning and maddeningly un-named collectors.

The biggest-ticket item will probably be a Pierre Bonnard painting from 1943, on which the hammer is expected to fall at about €600,000. But there are options for those who wish to endow their homes with baroque grandeur at a relative bargain. You’ll be able to take home a Belgian restoration tabletop drinking fountain for about €800 (pictured), while a little more (€1,000 to €1,500) will allow you to decorate your drawing room with a pair of Louis XV-era carved walnut stools upholstered with leopard-print velvet. Who among us has not at some time mused, “I wish I had a pair of Louis XV-era carved walnut stools upholstered with leopard-print velvet?”

It’s the art, however, that is most enticing. There are paintings by the great cubists Serge Férat and Georges Valmier and works by prolific modern artist Fabrice Hyber – about €18,000 should land you his “Tam Tam” or “Citoxe”. At least one work by a more obvious household name is available but it won’t be cheap: an Alexander Calder abstract from 1942 is set to fetch €80,000.


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