Friday 19 January 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 19/1/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Design / Nic Monisse

Unfinished business

Furniture and interior trade fair Maison & Objet kicked off at the Nord Villepinte Exhibition Centre in Paris yesterday and runs until Monday. Dwarfed only by Milan’s Salone del Mobile, the event is a bellwether of the industry. The pieces presented by the 2,300 exhibiting firms hint at this year’s aesthetic trends and the products that might end up in our homes and offices. While walking through the opening-day crowds, I was struck by the sheer volume of brands whose new pieces celebrated raw materiality, with unfinished and untreated surfaces.

The trend included smaller artisanal brands such as French label Songe, which showed tables made from solid wood (no veneers here), Turkey’s Uniqka, whose pieces were made from chrome-free, vegetable-tanned leather, and Dutch brand Lemon, whose newest travertine table has a porous marble base (typically, the gaps in the marble are filled in). The shift is, perhaps, an effort by firms to meet consumer demands for sustainable furniture – and a big part of this is embracing chemical-free materials.

In previous years there has been a desire for furniture to be perfectly finished. Many of the wares showcased this year, however, were enhanced by small imperfections, giving them a more handmade aesthetic. Precious Kyoto exhibited hand-painted byobu (folding screens) made by traditional craftsmen, while Project 213A presented lamps in unique glazed finishes. Paris-based architectural designer Marion Stora showed chairs in untreated wood, with hand-scalloped armrests. “I wanted to create a warm and welcoming collection, highlighting the ancestral savoir-faire of craftsmanship,” said Stora.

There seems to be something nostalgic about raw materials and the traces left by craftsmen on the surface of furniture. If sentimentality is what helped drive an appreciation for mid-century furniture over the past decade, then perhaps it will be the same for handcrafted goods over the next 10 years.

Nic Monisse is Monocle’s design editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Affairs / Middle East

Measure for measure

Following Tehran’s missile and drone attack on Pakistan’s Balochistan province this week, Islamabad has retaliated with its own deadly strikes on what it claims were “terrorist hideouts” in Iran. This escalation of hostilities between the neighbouring countries comes as tensions in the Middle East continue to rise over the Israel-Hamas war. Both Pakistan and Iran have clashed with militants in the region for years but neither had previously resorted to such drastic measures. “What both countries did was in clear violation of international law,” Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House, told Monocle Radio’s The Globalist. “It’s now obvious that the UN Security Council can’t impose its will in any conflict, whether in Ukraine or Palestine. When there is fragility in the system and collective security fails, an environment emerges in which countries take international law into their own hands.”

For more on the rising tensions between Iran and Pakistan, tune in to Thursday’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio.

Talk of the town: Monocle Radio’s Tom Webb (on left) and Huiyao “Henry” Wang in Davos

Diplomacy / China & the EU

Push and pull

Divisions between Europe and China are being laid bare this week at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos. While China’s premier, Li Qiang, underscored the importance of foreign investment in the country’s economy, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen responded with a defence of the West’s geopolitical interests.

This year’s large Chinese delegation includes Huiyao “Henry” Wang, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, who is cautious about Europe’s approach of “de-risking” (ending or restricting business relationships to eliminate risk). “The EU is both a partner and a competitor – and that translates into a rivalry,” he says. “Instead of emphasising security issues, we should work on economic trade and investment.” Wang’s role in Davos is to encourage Europe and the global elite to engage more with China. “We need to work towards strong multilateralism and governance to solve the global financial crisis.”

For our full interview with Henry Wang at Davos, tune in to Wednesday’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: ART SG

Art / Singapore

Top draw

The second edition of the contemporary art fair Art SG opens today in Singapore. A total of 114 galleries from 33 countries are taking part in the event at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, making it one of Southeast Asia’s largest and most international fairs.

In addition to blue-chip names such as White Cube and Gagosian, there are sections dedicated to “young” galleries – those established within the past 10 years – and emerging artists who are debuting new work at Art SG. There is also an emphasis on Southeast Asian artists, for whom Singapore functions as a hub where collectors discover lesser-known work. The event is taking place during Singapore Art Week, which runs until 28 January, and includes exhibitions and events at the city’s many museums and cultural institutes.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Getty Images

Photo of the week / Paris Fashion Week

Not his first rodeo

Pharrell Williams walks the runway during the Louis Vuitton autumn/winter 2024/2025 menswear show, which opened Paris Fashion Week. For his third collection as creative director, Williams seamlessly blends Wild West aesthetics with modern luxury, collaborating with traditional artisans from the Dakota and Lakota nations.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods: Burgundy

We head to the Côte d’Or in Central France, which is known as the epicentre of the nation’s fine-wine production. Its offerings, however, extend well beyond wine. From triple-cream cheeses and truffles to honey and ham, there is no shortage of culinary delights to be enjoyed in the region. Monocle’s Liv Kessler takes us on a winding roadtrip from the Côte de Nuits to the Côte de Beaune.


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