Sustainable art is making its way into auction houses

·2-min read

Conscious of its environmental impact, the art world is increasingly pondering how artistic creation can be reconciled with eco-responsibility. Christie's is playing its part in the process by organizing the first sustainable art auction, May 28. The initiative is launched in partnership with the nonprofit ChangeNOW Communities.

This new kind of auction forms part of the "Art for Change" program of the forthcoming edition of the ChangeNOW summit, running May 27 to 29 in Paris. The sale will feature 16 works by French and international artists, including Caroline Venet, Linda Sanchez, Rachel Marks and Jordane Saget.

As well as being resolutely modern, the artworks on sale have all been shaped using the "already there." The media and techniques chosen by the artists minimize the environmental impact of their creations, whether by limiting the use of toxic materials or by using recycled or upcycled materials. The street artist, Tim Zdey, for example recovered the door of a Citroën ZX from a scrapyard in the Paris suburbs to create "On the Road Again," while Jesu Moratiel incorporated dead bees into an artwork titled, "Look, they are fairies."

"This new sale presents sober and strong works of artists who shape the 'already there,' who create with the created. The abandoned material is diverted, re-shaped, sublimated, re-sourced. The works are neither 'green' nor activist, they do not necessarily address ecology as a theme, but integrate it into the creative process," explains Ronan de la Croix, exhibition curator at ChangeNOW.

Making artistic creation a low-carbon activity

The artworks are estimated to fetch between €3,000 and €20,000 (approx. $3,500 and $24,000). Proceeds from the sale will be shared between the artists, their galleries and the ChangeNOW Communities nonprofit, to promote and encourage low-carbon artistic creation. Change NOW co-founder and CEO Santiago Lefebvre explains that this Christie's sale marks the birth of the ChangeNOW Communities association, which will launch the ChangeNOW Prize for Sustainable Creation, supporting artists working in the field and organizing events dedicated to low-carbon creation.

As well as spotlighting sustainable art in this new auction, Christie's recently pledged to become a "net zero" business by 2030 -- a first for a major auction house. The company, owned by the French billionaire businessman François Pinault, plans to cut its carbon emissions by 50% and provide all clients with packaging and printed material that is 100% recyclable.

While there's still a long way to go to reach these targets, the firm's global head of operations Tom Woolston, who leads Christie's sustainability program, remains confident: "From now on, the lens of sustainability must inform all of our activities. We understand that making good on these commitments will require a shift in culture and recognize that there is much to be done to adapt across the business."

Caroline Drzewinski