Embracing Sustainability: The Art Industry’s Commitment to Environmental Responsibility
Image: Art Basel, 2022. © Art Basel.

By Lucy Hasani,

Sustainability has made a name for itself in almost every industry, and the art world is no exception. The very structure of the industry requires jetting off to international art fairs, freighting artworks across oceans and staying current with the latest exhibitions. Despite only representing a small portion of global emissions, the art industry has recognized the need to adopt more sustainable practices and reduce its environmental footprint.

Sustainable Initiatives

One way that the industry has been pledging commitments to sustainability is through innovative start ups, such as Gallery Climate Coalition. This non-profit centers around reducing emissions across the industry by 50% and achieving net-zero waste operations, both to be achieved by 2030. More recently, GCC has introduced a new membership program in order to partner with galleries and embrace collective efforts.

While GCC focuses on cultivating sustainable change, Climate Action 8X8 offers a means by which to achieve this. Working with galleries such as Hauser & Wirth, this front-running initiative aims to provide members with suggestions on how to improve sustainability across eight different operational areas. By promoting a sense of accountability and collaboration, as well as welcoming change with open arms, these organizations are setting the tone for the future.

Eco Friendly Installations

Art fairs and Biennials are notably the top contributors to carbon emissions in the art industry. Switzerland, Hong Kong and a variety of other destinations have become the cultural hub for the gallerists and collectors of the century. Because of this however, they also provide expansive opportunities to raise awareness about environmentally friendly practices. Only just recently, La Prairie teamed up with solo female artist Chankalun to create a sustainable neon light installation at Art Basel Hong Kong. The installation, Light as Air, was made using up-cycled glass, as well as La Prairie’s White Caviar waste materials. Chankalun herself embodies these values of sustainability, conserving and reusing materials in her own studio.

Image: Neon artist Chankalun (Karen Chan) collaborates with La Prairie for Art Basel Hong Kong 2023. © L’Officiel Malaysia.

Blue-Chips across the Border

Getting artworks from one gallery to another has always been a difficulty in the pursuit of sustainable practices. Whether it’s a delicate ceramic or a large-scale work on canvas, transportation no doubt has a negative effect on carbon emissions. Christie’s auction house and Crozier, a fine arts logistics company, have however formed a fruitful partnership in order to reduce the environmental impact of the industry. The two organizations have established a new sea freight route between London and New York, aimed at reducing the number of trips made to transport artworks between these two art major capitals. This strategy employs sea freight, as opposed to air, which reduces emissions by 80% as well as finds the highest volume routes in order to reduce the frequency of trips.

Digital Exhibitions

If there is one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it is the potential of digital alternatives to traditional in-person experiences, and this has extended to the art world. Exploring seasonal curations and discovering emerging artists is now made easier through the availability of online exhibitions, allowing visitors to enjoy such experiences from the convenience of their own homes. aims to make a professionally curated collection of artwork and unique décor from around the globe available for anyone to purchase online with a simple click. Consequently, they individually select fresh, contemporary work from around the globe and present it for direct sale to clients online. Artland VR is another key player turning this into a reality, with their virtual spaces that allow clients to privately view new works. For galleries, this has become an indispensable sales tool: increasing awareness and client inquiries. For collectors, however, it presents a convenient and sustainable alternative to experience exhibitions in a different light.

Image: VR Exhibiton, 2023. © Artland VR.

The art world is undergoing a shift towards more sustainable practices, recognizing the need to reduce its environmental footprint and commit to climate-smart practices . Innovative start-ups and eco-friendly installations are only a glimpse of what the industry is setting out to achieve and we couldn’t be more excited at the prospect of this change.

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