In need of a fresh perspective? Monocle’s editor in chief sees London from new heights in this week’s dispatch, the fashion world rolls out the red carpet for, well, red and a Swiss gallery establishes its first Paris premises. Plus: we head to Andorra for a picture of model behaviour and jet off to the Pacific Northwest to hear about the scale of its salmon obsession. Let’s get going.
It’s revelatory seeing your city from up high. I always press my face to the window as the plane makes its descent into London’s Heathrow, tracing the course upriver of the old grey Thames. As the aircraft edges lower and lower over the capital’s storied landmarks, I want to absorb this living map. It’s the same if anyone invites me to a meeting on some highly elevated floor of an office tower – I need to take in the perspective before I can focus on what they have to say.
On Tuesday I received an invitation to meet the architects of the rooftop restaurant, Brooklands, at the recently opened Peninsula hotel on Hyde Park Corner. London isn’t short of five-star establishments but The Peninsula somehow gained a following from the moment its doors glided open. Just days after it took in its first guests, I dropped in and the lobby was filled with wealthy patrons, the white-capped bellhops were dashing to open chauffeured-car doors and the coffee shop felt like a happy Dubai outpost. A perfect piece of well-executed plug-and-play real estate. But it’s up high where life really changes.
Archer Humphryes Architects has created a bar that honours the world of racing cars (classic motors are a passion of The Peninsula magnate Michael Kadoorie) and a dining room inspired by Concorde. This part is, well, nuts, in a good way: you sit beneath the underbelly of a giant model of a Concorde and they even have parts of the actual plane, including the pilots’ seats. But what literally elevates the moment is the view.
Sitting by the windows, you look out over Hyde Park, Piccadilly, The Mall and Buckingham Palace. Below you, in the dark, the headlights of the cars and buses whirl around Hyde Park Corner glinting like jewels on a necklace. From up here you see the city afresh, feel its lure and also feel slightly in awe of its possibilities. Just for a fleeting moment you are above the fray.
Sometimes it must be hard writing the press release after an art or design fair because the one thing you can’t do if things have proved a little slow is acknowledge the fact. We occasionally see very good friends with businesses at fairs, giddy with success, while other times they happily admit that the fairs have been like a tundra town, with barely a bauble snapped up. The event organisers, however, always put out a release about how buoyant everything was. Heading into Frieze London, there was certainly some caution about the state of the art market. But there is a lot of money in this city and, this year, perhaps it really is all sunny uplands.
Last Saturday we went to the Pad design and art fair in Berkeley Square and, from Brazilian mid-century furniture to French ceramics, everything was so ridiculously sublime and envy inducing. Why didn’t we have a £40,000 lampshade! How had life been so cruel as to deny us a Roman statue or two! I dragged the other half around. He said unhelpful things such as, “But is it comfortable to sit on?” and, “You’d be worried about knocking it over all the time.”
As we left, we had to wait momentarily while a security guard checked the handbag of the woman in front of us to ensure that she hadn’t pinched a rare bronze. She was with her son – perhaps 18 – and we overheard one of those snatches of conversation that make you wonder why your Ancestry DNA test hadn’t revealed that you were really the son of a fabulously wealthy potentate.
“I just thought that chair would have been nice in your bedroom,” she said with the sadness that my mother used to channel when I declined the offer of a particularly hideous nylon jumper. “Mummy, really, I just want somewhere to sit and look at my iPad,” her son replied wearily. Sadly, the mother didn’t look like she was in the market for adopting an old editor, otherwise I would have handed over my card.
The fashion scene is seeing red (writes Grace Charlton). After harping on about the timeless value of a neutral palette, declaring that beige is not bland and stocking up on monochromatic pieces, it seems that designers, stylists, editors and fashion journalists are getting antsy for a trend to tap into and are hailing red as the biggest sartorial development for the year ahead. Last month, during fashion week in Milan, Gucci’s new creative director, Sabato de Sarno, debuted a deep, blood red that he dubbed “Ancora”.
Fashion houses such as The Row, Prada, Courrèges, Bottega Veneta, Ferragamo, Fendi and Eudon Choi have also been dabbling with shades of scarlet, vermilion, ruby and cherry since showing their autumn/winter collections – either with a red shoe or bag for a pop of colour or a full head-to-toe carmine look. And last month’s fashion shows in Paris and New York indicated no signs of stopping at the red light for the spring/summer 2024 season. What groundbreaking trends might take over next? Cyan blue? Yellow? Will the fashion world dare to venture onwards to the secondary colours of orange, green and purple? Or might this be the first sign that timeless minimalism no longer captivates the minds of the fashion world? We’ll have to spin the colour wheel to find out.
Who could possibly look forward to a drenching autumn rain? Urban naturalists in the Pacific Northwest, for one, who cheer every autumn storm that fills rivers for the benefit of migrating salmon (writes Gregory Scruggs). As celebrated regional author Timothy Egan once wrote, “The Pacific Northwest is simply this: wherever the salmon can get to.” Some 13 million people in greater Vancouver, Seattle and Portland now call the area home, yet, somehow, the salmon still find their way back to ancestral spawning grounds – despite the roadblocks that we’ve put in their way. Sadly, salmon numbers are a fraction of the number that they made up before we built cities and dams. And, today, a surprising amount of political decisions in the region hinge on the question: Will it benefit salmon?
The billions of US and Canadian dollars spent on salmon restoration ultimately trickle down to a magical encounter with the natural world on a dreary autumn day. You hear the fish before you see them, a volunteer salmon steward once told me in a Seattle park, the telltale splash of a swishing tail focusing your attention on a gravel streambed. After spending years foraging over thousands of kilometres in the vast Pacific Ocean, a small fish returns to the very spot in which it was born to spawn, die and repeat the cycle. Biologists still don’t quite understand how salmon are such effective homing beacons, some inscrutable cross of GPS and DNA. But the mystery is also part of the allure – a reason to don your most waterproof wellies, head out in the rain and watch nature at its finest in your own backyard.
Andreas Spillmann has long played an important role in Switzerland’s creative industries. From 2006 to 2021 he was director of the Swiss National Museum which, under his leadership, became the most visited museum of cultural history in the country. Today he is a partner at the publishing houses Scheidegger & Spiess and Park Books, and presides over the Solothurn Film Festival, as well as Fotostiftung Schweiz. He is also chair of the board at Kronenhalle restaurant in Zürich, near the city’s opera, theatre and Kunsthaus. Here, Spillmann tells us about his favourite piano concertos and which French TV show has caught his eye.
A few words about your latest project?
Scheidegger & Spiess has just published a non-fiction book on the blockade politics of government today. Democracy is too important to be left to political parties alone.
What news source do you wake up to?
I read the digital version of Die Zeit in the morning while lying horizontally on the sofa, still a bit sleepy. And afterwards, vertically and in the shower, I listen to BBC News.
What’s that you’re humming in the shower?
I don’t hum in the shower. If I did, I couldn’t hear the news. I want to know what happened overnight – often not very pleasant – so my humming would also be a bit weird.
Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines?
For me, tea drinkers are people who are at peace with themselves. But I can only manage all that – if at all – when I’m on holiday. That’s why I always drink coffee for breakfast – two or three big cups.
Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes?
My wife is a Spotify subscriber. I love listening to piano concertos by Chopin or Mozart.
In Zürich’s old town, in the same area where Lenin once lived, you will find the bookshop Never Stop Reading, located in a former butcher’s. If you don’t find at least 10 great new books there, you haven’t really looked.
Is that a podcast in your ear?
I regularly find the very best podcasts in Die Zeit. My favourite among them is the bi-weekly series Die sogenannte Gegenwart [The So-Called Present] with Ijoma Mangold, Nina Pauer and Lars Weisbrod.
What’s the best thing you’ve watched on TV recently?
En Thérapie, which is about five patients in therapy sessions after the Paris terror attacks in 2015. I like everything from its concept and dialogue to the relevance of the themes.
What’s your film genre of choice?
Drama – be it in the theatre or in the cinema. It shows the belief that writers possess to understand all that is going on around us. This hope is good for everyone.
What’s on the airwaves before drifting off?
Celeste. Songs such as “Love is Back”, “Lately” or “Hear My Voice”.
Any good restaurant or bar recommendations?
In Zürich, of course, it would be the larger-than-life bar of the Kronenhalle – always without any background music.
‘Roman Stories’, Jhumpa Lahiri. Originally written in Italian and translated into English by Todd Portnowitz, Lahiri’s new collection of short stories is about the experience of living in a city and dissecting the lives of those who are on the margins. Expect the author’s signature prose – simple and full of thought – and characters who wander, watch and listen.
‘Steven Meisel’, Galeria Alta. The Andorran gallery is presenting a solo exhibition of 20 works by American photographer Steven Meisel, who has created some of fashion’s most memorable campaigns, from Prada to Miu Miu. Highlights include portraits of supermodels such as Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer.
‘I Killed Your Dog’, L’Rain. “Sometimes when people talk about experimental music, it’s like it’s untouchable,” says the American musician and art curator L’Rain. “I wanted to prove the opposite.” Her third album, I Killed Your Dog does exactly that. Leaning on folk and rock influences, it feels more accessible than her first two records. Grappling with doomed relationships and filled with introspective tongue-in-cheek humour, her tracks tackle loss in a playful way – they’re love songs for people who don’t like talking about love.
Art dealers will begin packing up their wares tomorrow as the second edition of Paris+ par Art Basel comes to an end (writes Robert Bound). But one of the week’s big-deal openings is here to stay, with Hauser & Wirth setting up a permanent space in the French capital. The Swiss gallery is one of the biggest names in the art world and boasts outposts from Hong Kong to Hollywood via Menorca and St Moritz.
“Our focus was on finding the right place and the right home for artists,” Séverine Waelchli (pictured, centre), director of the Paris gallery, tells The Monocle Weekend Edition. Set in a stunning hôtel particulier from 1877 in the unbeatably chic 8th arrondissement, the space has been imaginatively reworked by Laplace architects, long-time Hauser & Wirth collaborators.
The six-metre-high ground floor gallery feels like a museum, with light glittering through large windows onto French oak floors designed to riff on the parquet of Versailles. “The location also meant being near big-name institutions such as the Musée d’Art Moderne and Palais de Tokyo,” says Waelchli. “We are in the zone.”
Hauser & Wirth’s Paris gallery opens today with an exhibition by Los Angeles-based artist Henry Taylor, featuring a show of paintings and sculptures (pictured, bottom) that feature include a 5-metre-high work, titled One tree per family, which had to be brought in through the front window.