Wednesday 6 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 6/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Playing to the gallery: Arco Madrid

Image: Getty Images

Art / Robert Bound

See and be seen

Today the Spanish capital welcomes the world to the 43rd edition of its annual art fair, Arco Madrid. The Ifema Madrid exhibition halls will host 205 galleries from 36 countries, with special sections showcasing Latin American art, emerging artists and more. King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia will cut the ribbon to kick off the fair.

Arco Madrid has long been better known for its subtle curation than barnstorming sales or the kind of visits from Hockney-fancying Hollywood royalty that we saw at last week’s Frieze Los Angeles. (When it comes to royalty, Spain still has the scissor-wielding real thing). This edition’s central theme is “The Shore, the Tide, the Current: An Oceanic Caribbean”; 19 galleries were invited to explore how continents, people and elements meet in that often-misunderstood part of the world. So, you might not escape interrogations of colonialism – but expect these ideas to be framed a little differently.

Elsewhere, “Opening” welcomes 15 new galleries, from cities such as Budapest and Bogotá. Expect artistic wonders from across the globe, as well as questioning of what a gallery is even for in an era of screens (and the proliferation of art fairs). There will also be the annual curatorial dialogue with Latin American galleries and one-off projects, all of which help to make the halls feel more like a museum than a hangar.

Art fairs aren’t the social bun fights or feeding frenzies that they once were. Indeed, the best fairs know that they’re the crossroads at which curators, collectors, critics and the merely curious meet, greet and maybe acquire. What makes Arco special – aside from its close links to the Americas – is how it serves as a haven for the sort of medium-sized galleries that are finding it tough to haul art-ass around the world all year in pursuit of an elusive market. Plus, Madrid in spring? No está mal.

Robert Bound is Monocle’s senior correspondent and the presenter of ‘Monocle on Culture’. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Image: Getty Images

Defence / China

High risk

China will raise its defence spending by 7.2 per cent this year as the country adopts a tougher stance on Taiwan. In the report announcing the increase, Beijing notably dropped its customary mention of a “peaceful reunification” with the country. “The Chinese Communist Party is finally being honest,” Aleksandra Gadzala Tirziu, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, tells The Monocle Minute.

“Xi Jinping has been preparing China for conflict since 2013. Beijing has been modernising its military and pursuing a policy of economic and technological decoupling from the West.” Tensions are steadily rising, says Tirziu. “Given the current geopolitical state of affairs, China might now see an opportunity to take Taiwan by any means necessary, including war.”

Aviation / USA

Soaring ahead

This week, American Airlines (AA) placed a blockbuster aircraft order of 260 jets, almost evenly split between Airbus, Boeing and Embraer. Eighty-five of these will be the troubled Boeing 737 Max – in this case, the not-yet-certified Max 10. The order has widely been viewed as a vote of confidence in Boeing, which has been struggling with a series of production problems. But AA has its own considerations. The largest airline in the world by most metrics, it has to buy from multiple manufacturers, planning many years in advance, to have enough aircraft to stay ahead. At a time of supply-chain issues and booming travel demand – as well as uncertainty around 737 Max production and certification timelines – airlines this size need to fight for delivery slots and can’t afford to put off orders. The Max 10 isn’t expected to arrive at AA until 2028, giving Boeing plenty of time to sort out its issues. If it doesn’t, Airbus will probably be happy to shift a few more A321neos AA’s way.

The show must go on: The Kharkiv National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre goes underground

Image: Reuters

Culture / Ukraine

Setting the stage

The Kharkiv National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre is preparing to reopen. Actors, singers, musicians and dancers have been unable to perform in the space since it shut its doors in February 2022 as a result of a nearby Russian missile strike. With the conflict ongoing, Ukraine’s second-largest city – located just 40km from the Russian border – remains at risk.

Despite this, some members of the company continued to stage events at metro stations. The theatre’s new concrete auditorium is being prepared beneath the main stage and will allow artists to safely return to work. When the theatre reopens, it will refuse to play Russian works, which previously made up about 40 per cent of its repertoire. This subterranean bunker is a reminder that the grandeur of a concert hall doesn’t just come from its mise en scène but also its commitment to cultural expression.

Beyond the Headlines

The List / Global

Taking a toll

As authorities across the world struggle to deal with the pressures of over-tourism, some are beginning to impose fees on those wishing to visit the most crowded attractions. Here’s a list of three destinations that are introducing revenue-making measures this year.

Mount Fuji, Japan
Visitor numbers at Japan’s Mount Fuji more than doubled between 2012 and 2019, reaching a total of 5.1 million people. From this summer, tourists will be charged ¥2,000 (€12.25) to climb Japan’s highest peak and the number of visitors will be capped at 4,000 a day in a bid to ease congestion. The toll fee will go towards the mountain’s maintenance and conservation.

Plaza de España, Seville
A surge in tourists since the lifting of coronavirus-related restrictions has caused damage to this square’s neo-Moorish façades, including missing tiles and stained walls. Seville’s mayor, José Luis Sanz, is now in favour of implementing an entry fee to support the site’s maintenance and protection, which would include 24-hour surveillance.

Hawaiian beaches
Hawaii welcomed a record 9.5 million visitors last year, resulting in highly congested roads, shortages of hospitality workers, long restaurant queues and damage to its beaches. A new bill has been introduced that would impose a $25 (€23) “climate fee” on all visitors in a bid to undo years of damage from over-tourism. It is projected to raise $68m (€62m), which would pay for the upkeep of Hawaii’s beaches and wildfire-prevention measures.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle Radio / The Menu


Monocle’s Ivan Carvalho is in Florence to discover the culinary treasures of a city that’s best known for its cultural offerings. Amid its wealth of Renaissance art and architecture, the Tuscan capital has its fair share of gastronomic outposts rooted in local traditions. It’s also a place where both new and old concepts find space to entertain people’s palates.


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