Magazines serve many purposes. They’re providers of news and moments of escapism, and chroniclers of passing mores (as well as handy flyswatters and doorstops). They can also be sources of inspiration, the turning of their pages delivering a gentle enticement to do things differently. That was the focus of the rallying cry that went out to the editors who worked on Monocle’s new February issue, which poses a simple question: “Time for a reboot?” Fear not, our calls to action don’t involve excessive numbers of star jumps, forgoing pie or promising to become a better person. We think that you have those things covered. Instead, our stories hopefully address more interesting matters. For example, could a tiny one-room library transform your town’s community spirit, as happened in La Conner, Washington? In Naples, we ask whether a visit to a shirtmaker can enhance not just your look but also your connection with fashion. In Tokyo, we explore how developers can be enticed to create neighbourhoods that truly delight. And what kind of tourism model genuinely supports the local way of life? (Come with us to Indonesia and find out.)
While editors and writers scurried around the world, I dispatched myself on an intercity train to Birmingham to meet Pierro Pozella, a 27-year-old man who fixes film cameras. In his hands, old Pentax, Rolleiflex and Minolta models suddenly rediscover their mojo and start clicking and winding with satisfying ease. We wanted to include Pozella because he’s going against the grain. He has found his calling, working around his dyslexia and autistic tendencies to become something of a leader in his field. Yes, we want to inspire you to think afresh about how you capture images of the world around you but, as with all of this month’s stories, we also want to introduce you to someone whose approach to life is worth observing and, perhaps, emulating. Use our February issue to put some thoughts on the old brain stove and then leave them to simmer.
This week, Argentina’s far-right president, Javier Milei, faces his biggest challenge yet from a nationwide strike called by the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) umbrella union in response to his economic reforms. “Unlike the smaller protests that have occurred since his victory in November, this is the inevitable standoff between the president and the labour unions,” Christopher Sabatini, senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, tells The Monocle Minute.
The strikes, which come 45 days since Milei took office, are the biggest show of discontent about his divisive strategy so far. According to Sabatini, the president’s popularity depends on his ability to portray these unions as standing in the way of necessary reforms at a time of sky-high inflation and economic crisis. And he might pull it off. “Given Argentina’s recent rejection of traditional politics and the political class, there is a risk that the CGT is overplaying its hand by protesting so soon and with such force,” he says.
Those who have been eagerly awaiting the completion of an ambitious plan to link the Guggenheim Bilbao to the Basque coast will be disappointed to learn that the project has been suspended. This week, the head of the Basque regional government, Iñigo Urkullu, announced a two-year pause to construction in order to reassess its viability.
In 2022, after years of public debate, local authorities approved plans to expand Frank Gehry’s museum complex to the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, 40km from the city, via a tunnel. The €100m project has long been dogged by controversy and targeted by protests led by Bildu, the political wing of defunct separatist group Eta, which deemed it unnecessary and unsustainable. After so many delays, it’s unclear whether it will be able to overcome this latest obstacle.
DesignTO, Canada’s largest annual design festival, runs until Sunday in Toronto. Since its launch in 2011, the event has turned the city into a showcase of the best in Canadian and international design by taking over all sorts of unlikely locations. Shop windows, private residences, cultural venues and an assortment of neighbourhood spaces play host to exhibitions, discussions and installations by practitioners from across North America and beyond. According to Deborah Wang, the festival’s artistic director, the goal is to engage the entire city in a conversation about design in all of its forms. “Toronto is the fourth-largest design city in North America,” she tells The Monocle Minute. “When we launched the festival, the work that was happening inside the studios didn’t really have an outward presence. So DesignTO brings out what’s happening behind the scenes for everyone to see.”
South Korean-born Emi Eu is executive director of Singaporean gallery STPI. She joined the business in 2000 and helped to grow its domestic and global reputation. The gallery runs Southeast Asian contemporary art fair SEA Focus as part of Singapore Art Week, which runs until 28 January.
How much has Singapore’s art scene changed since STPI was founded?
Over the past 20 years, the community has grown significantly and the number of galleries working with younger artists has significantly increased. The fact that there’s a platform like SEA Focus shows how much the art ecosystem has matured. There have been other art fairs in Singapore, including Art Stage and Art SG, but SEA Focus is all about spotlighting Southeast Asian art.
How do you think Art SG fits in with Singapore’s scene?
It’s a competitor to SEA Focus. Both events want to grab people’s attention. Many people come to Singapore from abroad for Art SG, especially collectors and art enthusiasts, and we’re happy to have colleagues and other galleries welcome them into the city. It’s a great opportunity for Southeast Asia to bring people together. SEA Focus is a small platform. We don’t have the means to produce such a huge fair so we’re lucky to have Art SG.
As an art collector, are there any pieces that you are keeping an eye on during Singapore Art Week?
That’s an occupational hazard. I tell myself that I should stop buying art. STPI’s Heman Chong solo show is excellent. The paintings are attractive. He’s a conceptual artist with whom we have collaborated for a very long time. Nine or 10 years ago he started to paint and I have been looking at his work since.
We dive into the unique career and personality of filmmaker Werner Herzog. We catch up with Thomas von Steinaecker, the director of a new documentary, ‘Werner Herzog: Radical Dreamer’, which paints a portrait of the man behind the camera. Plus: we hear from one of Herzog’s friends and collaborators, Herbert Golder.