Share on:

How the art world is reducing its carbon footprint

Auction houses like Christie's are increasingly taking action to remedy the situation with initiatives such as charity sales supporting environmental causes.

Christie’s is on a mission to “propel the art world in the fight against climate change.” While the auction house had already pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2030, it is now taking its approach one step further by raising funds for the environmental law charity, ClientEarth.

And who better to help with that task than the Gallery Climate Coalition. This non-governmental organization has been campaigning since 2018 for the art world to change its operations to help combat the climate emergency. And the idea is beginning to gain ground in the sector, as the Gallery Climate Coalition now has more than 360 members, compared to just 14 at its inception. Christie’s announced in March that it will soon be a member.

art

“There’ll be bluebirds” by Cecily Brown.

To financially support ClientEarth in its environmental work, Christie’s will offer seven lots for auction, with all proceeds going to the organization. One of the artworks selected for the initiative is “There’ll be bluebirds” by Cecily Brown. This painting will go under the hammer October 15 during the “20th / 21st Century Evening Sale” in London. It could fetch between £500,000 and £700,000 (or approximately $690,000 to $966,000).

Christie’s will also be selling works by Antony Gormley, Rashid Johnson, Beatriz Milhazes and Xie Nanxing as part of the “Artists for ClientEarth” initiative. Most of them were sourced locally to limit their transportation, in accordance with the recommendations of the Gallery Climate Coalition. Indeed, moving artworks internationally contributes greatly to the carbon footprint of the art world. According to the organization’s estimates, shipping artworks by boat instead of by plane could reduce its climate impact by nearly 95%.

(Related: How Masterworks’ CEO Scott Lynn is democratizing art investment for everyone)

The winds of change

In recent months, Christie’s has launched various initiatives as part of a wider push to become more environmentally friendly. The auction house has committed to cutting its carbon emissions in half by rethinking the way it operates on a daily basis, from the power supply of its buildings, to the business trips made by its teams, to the packaging and transportation of artworks.

The covid-19 pandemic helped the firm begin this transformation. Shipping emissions fell 46% last year, according to a recent Christie’s report. The most drastic reduction, however, was in business travel, which accounted for 1,894 tons of CO2 emissions in 2020, compared to 13,585 the year before. Although François Pinault’s company claims that this travel is important for its business, Christie’s hopes to reduce “discretionary travel” and find ways of making any travel the firm’s teams do undertake more sustainable.

“As a leader in our market, Christie’s has a responsibility to build a more sustainable business and play a role in protecting the environment. We have made an important first step in setting out clear and ambitious targets …, but we have a long way to go,” said the auction house CEO, Guillaume Cerutti.

(Related: Meet this year’s five recipients of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise)