Galleries join forces to fight climate change

There is a growing awareness of environmental issues in the art world. In October 2020 a group of gallerists and art professionals launched the Gallery Climate Coalition, a non-profit organisation meant to develop meaningful and industry-specific responses to the climate crisis.

Galleries join forces to fight climate change

The Gallery Climate Coalition is actively recruiting galleries, art workers and artists to join them in working towards their core goal to reduce carbon emissions by 50% over the next ten years (in line with the Paris Agreement), as well as promote near zero-waste practices. The London gallerist Thomas Dane is among the founders, along with Kate MacGarry, Lisson Gallery, Sadie Coles HQ, Frieze, Artlogic, Scott & Co, Louisa Buck, Daisy Garnett and Dr. Harris Kuemmerle.

How many galleries have joined since you launched your initiative?

The Gallery Climate Coalition consists of four galleries as part of a founding committee: Thomas Dane Gallery, Kate MacGarry, Lisson Gallery and Sadie Coles HQ. In 10 days since the launch more than 150 members have signed up, 48 of which are galleries and the rest are artists, arts organisations and individuals.

Are there international galleries and businesses as well as those based in London?

The GCC originated in London but aims to be an international network. Members have joined from across Europe, North and Latin America and Asia. The GCC is also collaborating with several parallel international initiatives to align targets and share resources. There have already been several positive conversations with Italian galleries and institutions via Thomas Dane Gallery Naples. In the near future, the GCC hopes to be working directly with key members of the Italian art community.

Are galleries committed to environmental issues despite the current difficulties they are facing because of Covid-19?
For the GCC founding members and many others, the environmental impact of the art world has been a long-held concern, but until now there has been a lack of sector specific knowledge to be able to implement significant change across the industry as a whole. The circumstances of 2020 have given us opportunity to pause and reflect on our operations, and to think about how we can change moving forwards. We have had an overwhelmingly positive response from our peers across the industry since the GCC launch last week, and some people have told us they have been waiting a long time for something like this.  

What is the environmental impact on the day-to-day business of the average gallery?
The area of environmental impact that the GCC is measuring in particular is carbon emissions, with a goal to reduce net emissions across the art sector as a whole by 50% over the next ten years, which is in line with the Paris Agreement. In the process of developing the Gallery Climate Coalition website’s Carbon Calculator tool, both Thomas Dane Gallery and Kate MacGarry undertook voluntary in-depth carbon audits in order to inform the methodology used by carbon analyst, Danny Chivers and digital art technology firm, ArtLogic in building the calculator. As the two galleries are operations of different sizes, the total carbon emissions of course vary - as they will across all galleries and institutions -, but there were some similarities as well as differences in the main contributing factors to three emissions.

Which gallery activities have the worst impact on the environment?
For both Thomas Dane Gallery and Kate MacGarry, the carbon audit reports indicated that the three top sources of greenhouse gas were business flights, the air freight of artworks and building energy use. For Thomas Dane Gallery, these together made up 94% of the total carbon emissions across its two operations in London and Naples. You can see more detail from the carbon audit report results here.

What can a gallery do right away to reduce their impact on the environment?
What the results of the carbon calculator have shown us is that collecting precise data on the source of a gallery, organisation or individual’s carbon emissions can help to make more informed choices when it comes to implementing changes to reduce the impact. These may not be immediate changes but a shift in the way of doing things over time. This could include, for example; reducing air travel and opting to travel by land where possible instead of taking flights; shifting key artwork shipments from air transport to sea freight; or switching to a green source of energy in gallery buildings. The GCC website offers resources on these and other areas, with the aim to build up more of a database of sector-specific recommendations over time as we collect more knowledge and information.