Over the last year, individuals and institutions from across the art world have increasingly begun holding themselves and each other accountable in the fight against climate change. Groups and initiatives have formed from Berlin to New York to Los Angeles with major galleries and institutions pledging to support system-wide changes to reduce the art sector’s carbon footprint. One of the largest initiatives to emerge is Gallery Climate Coalition, which has partnered with Christie’s and ClientEarth to form Artists for ClientEarth, a series of sales that support ClientEarth’s crucial work. The nonprofit legal organization approaches the climate crisis by using the law to fight against industries, corporations, and governments that are polluting the environment.
The next sale as part of Artists for ClientEarth is of a major painting by Rashid Johnson that will be auctioned at Christie’s New York on November 9th. Titled Bruise Painting “Or Down You Fall,” the work has an estimate of $650,000 to $850,000 and is from Johnson’s recent Bruise Painting series, characterized in part by rich black and blue hues.
The sale of Johnson’s painting is the second in the series that will support ClientEarth. The first, a beautiful, fleshy painting by Cecily Brown, sold for 3.5 million GBP at Christie’s London just a few weeks ago. The painting brought in over 5 times its high estimate of 500,000 to 700,000 GBP. The sale after Johnson’s will be of a Xie Nanxing piece at Christie’s Hong Kong in December, with further sales of works by Antony Gormley and Beatriz Milhazes taking place in 2022. All of the works supporting Artists for ClientEarth were donated by the artists and their galleries: Hauser & Wirth, Thomas Dane Gallery, and White Cube. The goal for each sale is for the pieces to remain local, thus cutting down on the carbon emissions of potential packing and shipping.
In addition to raising funds for ClientEarth, the series of sales will include talks and educational programs to share information on how the groups are working to improve the art industry, in particular the specialized legal work done by ClientEarth. James Thornton, Founding CEO of ClientEarth explained: “At ClientEarth, we use the power of law to build a brighter, healthier future for people and nature to thrive together. We use law creatively to drive systemic change, and rebalance the power between people, governments, and industry. Art and culture will thrive when people and nature are defended. So we are passionate about bringing environmental protection into the heart of the art world. That’s why we are so thrilled by the support for our mission by Christie’s and the Gallery Climate Coalition through Artists for ClientEarth. It is a truly great pleasure for ClientEarth to be associated with and supported by the outstanding works of these artists.”
Gallery Climate Coalition (GCC) is a nonprofit that was founded in London by galleries and art professionals with the shared goal of reducing the commercial art sector’s impact on climate change and cutting its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030 in line with the Paris Agreement. GCC now has chapters in Los Angeles and Berlin and is expanding across Europe, South America, and the US. Christie’s is a member of GCC and, in March of 2021, the auction house announced its commitment to sustainability by pledging to become net zero by 2030.
In addition to their work with Artists for ClientEarth, GCC offers resources and tips for galleries to decarbonize the visual art sector and work towards zero waste. GCC is also part of Partners for Arts Climate Targets (PACT), an international coalition of visual arts groups that catalyzes climate action. PACT also includes Galleries Commit, Art/Switch, Art to Acres, Art + Climate Action, Art to Zero and Ki Culture. These groups, along with initiatives like Artists for ClientEarth, represent an important step towards coordinated, system-wide change.
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Annabel Keenan is a New York-based writer focusing on contemporary art, market reporting, and sustainability. Her writing has been published in The Art Newspaper, Hyperallergic, and Artillery Magazine among others. She holds a B.A. in Art History and Italian from Emory University and an M.A. in Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture from the Bard Graduate Center.