Saturday 23 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 23/3/2024

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Outside the box

We’re full of fighting talk in this week’s dispatch as we muse on Emmanuel Macron’s latest knockout look and watch a small-town gangster family drama unfold in 1980s Las Vegas. Plus: an ode to in-person service and the founders of Frieze art fair give us some food for thought. But first, Andrew Tuck takes to the stage.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

The Opener / Andrew Tuck

Speaking volumes

Last week’s column ended with me heading to Mallorca after a week in Cannes (I’d been there for the Mipim real-estate trade show) and Lisbon (company away day, a big cabaret-show moment). Let’s pick up from there, if you don’t mind, because I want to talk about talks.

Back at Christmas I met a woman called Chiara Ferrari, a great interiors and product designer, who lives and works in the Mallorcan town of Inca. I am going to write about the town and Ferrari in the magazine but all you need to know for now is that Inca was once the heart of the island’s shoe-making industry until this collapsed, when companies began moving production to the likes of China. It shook the town and, even today, too many buildings stand empty. It’s one of these, however, that Ferrari has bought and turned into her home and studio, called 110. The other thing you need to know is that Ferrari is a force for good, a tornado of energy who scoops you up in her enthusiasm. Anyway, perhaps it was because it was Christmas, perhaps because the date seemed a long way off, that somehow she got me to agree to do a short talk alongside a fine group of island creatives. And all in the style of Pecha Kucha, where you upload 20 slides and have just 20 seconds to talk about each one before it moves on automatically. What could go wrong?

The other half collected me from Palma de Mallorca Airport at lunchtime. Back in the apartment, I enticed him into the role of show producer – well, my producer. We did a dry run of the presentation. And it was a mess: I had way too many witty things to say about each image. Each one seemed to be on my laptop screen for barely a second before the next clicked into view. With some rather unwise diary planning, I had also made an afternoon appointment for another Monocle story and, by the time I got back home, there was just time for a couple more test runs – slightly less chaotic – before we had to leave.

Talking in public, moderating and giving a speech are things that, thanks to Monocle, I have become used to. Having attended numerous conferences and debates, I have also seen the best and worst hosts and speakers at play and picked up some helpful lessons. But I always have nerves. My other half is an actor (and technology writer) and his advice is that you need to see nerves as a friend; to take the jolt of adrenaline that’s coursing through you as nature’s sharpener. Over the years, he has given me lots of good guidance, such as, if you feel anxious, to stand on the stage for a couple of seconds and allow your breath to calm before even opening your mouth.

And then there are the things that I have learned along the way. The most important is that unless you are on the hustings, people want this to go well, the audience is on your side and you don’t need to fear them (indeed, I often scan the room for the most smiley people and keep coming back to them, catching their eyes, looping them in). Watching other people, I have also realised that you can be too good. Sometimes the slickest presenters are the most disappointing. When someone has polished their routine to perfection, it lacks humanity. That’s why a stumble is OK, you just press on.

So, in short, my six minutes and 40 seconds went just fine, as it did for all the people who got up to talk last Friday (from potters and architects to photographers and philosophers). Why? Because they all spoke from the heart, discovered that the crowd was just there to listen and not to throw cabbages. But, even so, I was very pleased when it was time to have a drink.

Image: Soazig de la Moissonnière

The Look / Homme from the Somme

Proud as punch

Despite the fact that he seduced his 40-year-old high-school teacher at the age of 15, Emmanuel Macron has the aura of a man perpetually trying to prove his masculinity (writes Alexis Self). Though you can probably picture him in his office at the Élysée Palace doing grip-strengthening exercises so that he can shake Donald Trump’s hand really, really hard, he and his comms team often take care of the cringeworthy visualisations for you.

In 2022 photos of a stubbly Macron wearing a black hoodie with the CPA 10 logo of the French special forces were released to give the impression of a rugged leader not unlike his khaki-wearing, war-fighting Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky. Unfortunately, those photos, in which the French president clenches his jaw as he grips his laptop, made him look less like a man of action and more like a vitamin D-deficient teenage boy, retreating to his bedroom after a particularly lengthy Call of Duty session.

And this week we have the gift of Macron the boxer. Le président de la République’s delightfully named official photographer, Soazig de la Moissonnière, has unleashed another set of embarrassing black-and-white photos on a world that surely doesn’t need more images of middle-aged men working out. In the photos, the “Homme from the Somme” grunts and jabs at a punching bag that we can only imagine has a picture of Vladimir Putin affixed to its front. Or perhaps it’s a photo of the mean kid who bullied Macron at school; the one whose taunting of little Manu galvanised this skinny boy from Amiens to become the double-hard statesman he is today. Take that, Étienne!

Culture cuts / Three films to watch

Digging deep

‘Drift’, Anthony Chen. Stories of refugees tend to tread a familiar path. Director Anthony Chen quietly circumvents clichés with Drift, which follows the well-to-do daughter of an upper-class Liberian family forced to flee to Greece after conflict catches up with them. The film rests on the pathos of Cynthia Erivo’s performance – she is an actress who can make anything look enthralling.
‘Drift’ is released this Sunday, 24 March

‘Close Your Eyes’, Víctor Erice. Spanish film-maker Víctor Erice has never made a bad movie. Now, after a long absence, he has returned with what’s, on the surface, a mystery film about the disappearance of an actor. Look deeper, though, and you’ll find an exploration of memory, identity and their intersection with cinema.
‘Close Your Eyes’ is released on 12 April

‘Love Lies Bleeding’, Rose Glass. Gym manager Lou (Kristen Stewart) falls hard and fast for bodybuilder Jackie (Katy O’Brian) – and their love affair might be their only respite from the drama of her small-town gangster family. Dripping in 1980s dirtbag Americana aesthetics, the film is a pounding and aggressive melodrama from the director of horror film Saint Maud.
‘Love Lies Bleeding’ is released on 19 April

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

How we live / Self-checkouts

Unexpected human in the bagging area

Your correspondent is one of life’s late adopters (writes Andrew Mueller). I banked with a passbook far past the point when it was necessary, resisted being online as long as possible and did not acquire a mobile phone until well into the 21st century. While I eventually resign myself to modern conveniences, I have never used a self-service checkout. I detest these hectoring automatons so much that I often line up for human assistance rather than use one or shop elsewhere when that isn’t an option. I would applaud any latter-day Luddite cadre of disaffected till operators who set about them with sledgehammers.

Encouragingly, one supermarket chain has decided that I’m not alone. Booths, upscale grocers in the north of England, removed their self-service checkouts from all but two of their 28 branches in favour of human staff. If I lived closer, I’d shop at Booths all the time (the nearest branch to Midori House is in Knutsford, a three-and-a-half-hour drive away) but my enthusiasm for its splendid new initiative does have some limits. Booths knows that customers prefer interacting with people even if (it might be reasonably noted) UK supermarket employees are unlikely to be mistaken for rays of sunshine. I am barely able to endure the repetitive robotic barking of instructions emitted by self-service checkouts when I’m queuing for one of the last human staff. It must be – genuinely – unbearable for the people who still work there.

Image: Getty Images

Words with / Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover

All in good taste

Amanda Sharp and Matthew Slotover have already made a huge mark in the art industry by founding Frieze magazine and Frieze Art Fair. But in recent years they’ve also indulged the gastronomic side of their creative appetites. Their London restaurant, Toklas, opened in 2021 and has unsurprisingly become something of an art canteen. We speak to Sharp and Slotover about running a restaurant and creating a community of artists.

When you think about meeting points for artists through the centuries, they have often been cafés or restaurants. Was there a sense of wanting to create such a space or did it just happen?
Matthew Slotover: Art is a solitary activity. Most artists work alone in their studios and when they leave, they need to have some contact with people. It’s not like theatre or film, where you’re with a lot of people and then you want to get away from them. After art openings, when everyone has worked together to make an exhibition, the big celebration is the dinner after. We’ve been to a lot of those and I’ve noticed that it doesn’t necessarily happen in other art forms.

Toklas has now been running for a couple of years. Have you found that it has become the convening place for artists that you wanted it to become?
MS: Every day there’s someone from the art world in the restaurant or from a related cultural field. There are also a lot of academics or lawyers who live nearby. But often you’ll have four or five tables of people who know each other, who have worked with each other and who didn’t know that the others were going to be there. That’s what we’re looking for: a place where you could bump into interesting people. There are a few places like that in London and we definitely wanted this to be on that list.

What about the art? There are plenty of restaurants around the world that have become almost like mini galleries in themselves. How do you create that from scratch?
Amanda Sharp: The question of how much art to have on the walls was a real dilemma for us. One of the most beloved art restaurants in London is St John and it has nothing on the walls. And how would it feel if a gallery does a dinner in the restaurant and there is artwork by other artists on the wall? Resolving the art was a big challenge for us and it’s still something under development.

How does Frieze fit into all of this and how have your relationships with the worlds of art and hospitality evolved over the years?
AS: Our day-to-day now is just the restaurant. In terms of Frieze, we don’t run it any longer but we are available to help if we’re asked to. It’s really exciting to see Frieze continuing to evolve as a more global fair. This year more than 40 countries will be represented, which is the biggest number so far.

MS: We should say that the Frieze office is upstairs in the same building. We ended up doing this restaurant because we moved Frieze into this really interesting building. The owner offered us the space and we thought that there was a need for a good restaurant. That’s how it all came about. A lot of galleries and dealers who visit the offices also come to the restaurant. So it all works together.

What is the magic ingredient that turns a restaurant into an art restaurant? Is it just a proximity to the galleries?
AS: Art is about “truth to materials”. People from the art world don’t need fancy environments; they actually like simplicity – a calm, beautiful environment that is quiet and welcoming.

MS: People see art as pretentious. But, in reality, artists themselves are not. “Truth to materials” is a phrase that we use a lot and think about a lot. It’s about being a kind of place where you would go during workdays – something reasonably good but not fancy. And that seems to attract the real artists and the real dealers.

For the full interview with Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharp, tune in to ‘The Menu’ on Monocle Radio.

The Monocle Concierge / Your questions answered

In full bloom

The Monocle Concierge is our purveyor of top tips and delectable recommendations for your next trip. If you’re planning to go somewhere nice and would like some advice, click here. We will answer one question a week.

Image: Max Burkhalter, Clark Hodgin
Image: Max Burkhalter, Clark Hodgin

Dear Concierge,

My partner and I will be visiting New York for a week in April. We will be staying in the Lower East Side. Neither of us have been there since 2019. What are the best things for us to see, do, eat, drink or rediscover? Thanks in advance.

Ollie Hester

Dear Ollie,

With frigid February in the rear-view mirror and a swampy summer not yet in full swing, you have picked a good travel window. You might even catch the cherry blossoms blooming at Brooklyn Botanic Garden or elsewhere around the city. If you make it across the East River to see the rows of rosy trees in the garden, stop by Brooklyn Museum’s showcase of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys’s private art collection, which includes pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kehinde Wiley. For dinner, head to Ilis, a new restaurant from Noma co-founder Mads Refslund, which is located in a giant warehouse and specialises in wood-fired dishes.

The Lower East Side has become even buzzier in recent years. You might remember the California-cool canteen, Dimes. It inspired the naming of Dimes Square, a triangular cluster of streets that is cordoned off in the evenings and on weekends. Cervo’s still serves up some of the best natural wines and Portuguese-style prawns downtown but you shouldn’t miss Casino, a scenic spot with a ruby-red dining room that makes very good bucatini with clams. For an excellent dirty martini and some stellar people-watching, swing by the terrace of Le Dive or Swan Room, a plush lounge inside Nine Orchard hotel. Nearby is the flagship Russ & Daughters, where residents still go for some of the best lox bagels in the city.

Tribeca has emerged as an art-and-design hub, with a string of new openings such as TIWA gallery and design shop. Pop by Firmdale’s new Warren Street Hotel for afternoon tea or grab a burger and steak frites at New York institution The Odeon (featured in Monocle’s latest issue), which hasn’t changed since the days when Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat frequented it. The old-school wood-panelled dining room, which draws the city’s artistic crowd, is a reminder that though New York is constantly changing, it is, in many ways, the same.

Wardrobe Update / RF x Oliver Peoples

Mutual advantage

Oliver Peoples has partnered with Roger Federer’s brand, RF, for an official four-collection sportswear partnership. It starts with a six-piece eyewear offering that has been designed for life both on and off the court.

The lightweight frames feature rubber “comfort-grip” pads and a corewire pattern that was inspired by the strings on vintage tennis racquets. The Mr Federer frames, which are based on the tennis player’s look during last year’s Met Gala, steal the show. We have our eyes on – and hopefully soon behind – the sportier shield frames, Oliver Peoples’ athletic debut.

For more ace looks and sartorial advice, pick up a copy of Monocle’s latest issue. Or subscribe today to join the club.


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