Art collectors are listening – here’s how you can actually reduce your carbon footprint (while still buying work)


With summer officially over and the global market picking up speed, it seems like the time is right to call on all collectors to use their influence to help our industry change its wasteful and carbon-intensive habits. ! As the first players in the art market, the choices and activities of collectors permeate all its facets; and your actions like your words can make a real difference in the fight against the climate and ecological crisis. Here are some tips for the environmentally conscious collector.

Money talks, so the best place to start is to harness your buying power and check the green credentials of the galleries, museums and artists you do business with. Have they joined any of the environmental initiatives that are gaining momentum in the art world? Among these is the Gallery Climate Coalition. I say this not only because I am a founding member, but also because in less than two years this international charity has expanded beyond the commercial sector to include more than 900 members from galleries, artists , organizations – and yes, collectors – around the world, all of whom have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint by at least 50% over the next decade. It carries real weight and was even featured at the UN earlier this year. GCC is also allied with other organizations such as Galleries Commit in New York, Art + Climate Action in California and Ki Culture in Amsterdam, and all are happy for you to join more than one!

Transport your art by sea or road and the planet will thank you

Slow is now the new fast. Rushing is resource-intensive and tight deadlines can mean a heavy carbon footprint. Do you really need to airlift that job you just bought? If you can wait a little longer and transport it by sea or road, the planet will thank you. Encourage the galleries and artists you work with to do the same. Transporting a work of art by sea can reduce its carbon impact by up to 95%. And how about slowing down your own movements too? Do you have to travel the world, battling jet lag? How about taking the train or just staying home and having a Zoom? And if you need to be airborne, keep in mind that economy class travel uses about five times less carbon than first class, so maybe you thrive on your (very occasional) long journeys. .

Wherever you go and how you go, count your carbon and reduce your waste. Whether it’s a gallery, an artist’s studio, a company or an individual, the logging and calculation of carbon expenditure must become as automatic as accounting. The GCC website offers a handy (free) carbon calculator to identify key areas of carbon cost and then make any necessary adjustments. The website also contains abundant and constantly updated information on best practices in the art industry – from theft to shipping, packaging and green energy – so that your decisions can be enlightened.

Don’t compensate, invest. Of course, we all still have to fly. But when we do, let’s try to give the planet an appropriate reward. My last column was about offsetting and how it can so often be just a form of greenwashing. I repeat here: beware of patterns that seem too good or cheap to be true: they usually are. All they will make up for is your guilt. By all means, keep planting trees and donating to good causes, but most programs, no matter how worthy, will not effectively or in time offset the carbon that has just been prepared by your recent flight to Frieze. Seoul. So make sure that when you want to part with the guilt money, it is channeled into projects that offer strategic impact and/or systemic change. Projects that make a significant difference now. I listed a few in my last column and more are on the GCC website as well.

Mycelium packaging is all the rage. Have you made sure your next order of artwork is mushroom-packed?

The art world needs to increase its awareness of waste. Shabby is now the new chic. Anything single-use should be your enemy (unless it can be quickly converted into compost). Does a new purchase have to arrive in a brand new gleaming crate, wrapped in yards of pristine plastic? Instead, where possible, insist on recycled and/or reusable packaging for work in transit. An old blanket, sturdy straps, and a reusable or well-traveled crate should be a badge of honor for the art in it. And for the collector for whom it is intended. All eyes are now on mycelium as the compostable and cultivable art packaging of the future. Hopefully soon the dreaded polystyrene and plastic bubble wrap will become a distant memory.

Overall, it’s up to collectors to lead by example and realize how much their behavior is observed and imitated. Conspicuous consumption is no longer a good look. Park that private jet, cut back on high-end multi-course dinners, and help persuade gallerists, artists, and other art buyers that you can still have fun without being flashy. Generosity doesn’t have to be incompatible with sustainability, it’s just a matter of investment choice. And remember, there is nothing wrong with pointing out your virtue if your actions are truly virtuous!


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