Art Business Conference 2022

The panel discussion on sustainability held at the Art Business Conference held in London on March 25, 2022.

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Speaking at The Art Business Conference, a group of specialists discussed how sustainability can be improved across the sector. 

Moderated by art critic Louisa Buck at Church House, Westminster, topics on shipping, business travel and packaging were up for discussion. 

Buck said: “As the art world gears up for more travel with fairs, it poses considerable challenges for sustainability.”

One of the largest producers of emissions for the sector is shipping by air. 

However the speakers argued that air freight will not be replaced any time soon. 

Cliodhna Murphy, at gallery at Hauser & Wirth, said: “Investigating sustainable air fuel is a focus as air freight is not going away.”

The feasibility of sea freight was also discussed with concerns raised about insurance firms making it too difficult. Chris Bentley at AXA countered: “Sea transit is more risky but it is not true that there is not a way to work with insurers to do it.”

He said the majority of insurers do not prevent shipping by sea. But it is about collaboration and working with companies to improve. “At the moment sea transit is more expensive but the more we can work together there can be a way to manage this. For instance, working more with the marine industry on how things are managed to reduce risks and costs.”

However, he said other areas to reduce emissions should also be focused on areas such as “packaging and the use of technology. Don’t just focus on the mode of transport as a way to be more sustainable.”

Imogen Prus, at shipping firm Convelio, said: “The second highest emissions area for us is wood crating. We plan to roll out new solutions on this. The big issue is the waste of plastics. But the key is to work with suppliers on packaging.”

Tom Woolston at Christie’s, said: “It is important for companies to be open and honest about carbon emissions. We publish it yearly and detail how we are progressing toward our targets. Creating the right measuring tools is very important. 

“The four main sources of emissions for Christie’s are the buildings, business travel, shipping and publishing activity. We have plans to decarbonise in all these areas.”

All the speakers lauded the efforts of the Gallery Climate Coalition (GCC), a not-for-profit group founded by London-based gallerists and professionals.

Murphy added: "There is a ground swell within the wider art world. From artists and collectors, to focus on sustainability."

Other topics discussed at the conference included Contemporary African art, women innovating in art, technology and finance and NFTs.