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Brief Published: 30 Oct 2020

Eco Concerns Infiltrate the Art World

Suzanne Plunkett: Greenpeace

As climate concern increases and Covid-19 forces art markets online, a fresh wave of eco initiatives is emerging from commercial galleries and activist artists alike. We highlight the latest sustainability-driven strategies. 

  • Activating Creative Networks: The October-launched, UK-based Gallery Climate Coalition offers tools and advice to climate-conscious arts businesses, including a bespoke carbon calculator. The group aims to reduce members’ carbon footprint by 50% over the next decade, along with achieving zero waste. 
  • Inclusive Initiatives: Harnessing Covid-era community creativity to spur inclusive action, Season for Change also this month awarded four £10,000 ($12,913) commissions for artists combining social and environmental justice. Among the recipients is British-Ugandan musician Love Ssega, who will work with Black communities in south London to track the effects of local air pollution. For more visual responses to this top-line health concern, see The Brief
  • Online Alt-Exhibitions: Online sales accounted for 37% of gallery business in the first half of this year, up from 10% last year (Art Basel x UBS, 2020) – presenting an alternative to environmentally damaging international events. October’s Parley Collective, a four-week programme of VR displays by contemporary art galleries, has targeted eco-conscious collectors directly online; 5-10% of proceeds go to Parley’s Global Cleanup Network targeting plastic waste.

  • Artists Take Action: Continuing a tradition of artistic eco-interventions, British artist Fiona Banner collaborated with Greenpeace to drop a 1.25 ton sculpture, Klang, outside the London headquarters of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs earlier this month, protesting the UK government’s failure to protect the oceans. Two more works, Peanuts and Orator, were sunk at the Dogger Bank Marine Protected Area in the North Sea to form part of a protective barrier against trawler fishing. 
    It follows September’s transformation of Manhattan’s iconic Union Square Metronome into a Climate Clock by US artists Dan Golan and Andrew Boyd, counting the time left to avert climate catastrophe. The clock will travel to Paris in 2021, while the organisers urge more communities to install their own Action Clocks to keep this issue in the public eye.