Home Arts Why the New York Chapter of the Gallery Climate Coalition is so crucial

Why the New York Chapter of the Gallery Climate Coalition is so crucial

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Since its founding in London in 2020, the non-profit environmental group Climate Coalition Gallery (GCC) has promoted system-wide change to achieve zero waste and reduce sector carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030. The international group supports its members by calculating and reducing emissions , developing and sharing best practices, raising funds for environmental initiatives and other activities. With over 800 members in 40 countries, GCC represents the largest sustainability coalition in the art industry. Last month, the group expanded its reach and started a new chapter in New York.

The New York chapter marks GCC’s sixth official branch, joining London, Berlin, Italy, Los Angeles and Taiwan. With additional branches to be announced soon – informal volunteer groups have already formed in countries such as Switzerland and Spain – GCC is looking towards more global expansion.

“International alignment and collaboration are critical to the success of the coalition,” says Victoria Siddall, GCC Co-Founder and Trustee. “We know that for the art world to achieve the goals of GCC, they must be adopted in all major art centres. New York is so influential in our industry; the community there has the power to create change that ripples through the entire industry.

Nine founding members of museums, galleries, councils and nonprofits have joined the New York branch, including Haley Mellin, founder of Art in the Acres; Laura Lupton, co-founder of Galleries Commit, Artists Commit, Barder and PACT; Chiara Repetto, founder and director of the Kaufmann Repetto gallery; and Whitney McGuire, associate director of sustainability at the Guggenheim Museum.

GCC celebrated the New York launch at the Guggenheim on April 21, using the event as an introduction to the initiative’s goals and achievements, as well as an invitation and call to action for other companies and art institutions in the city join them. The first information meeting open to the community will be held virtually May 30 at 10 a.m. PT.

“While we cannot solve the climate crisis alone, the Guggenheim Museum and the more than 800 organizations around the world that have already joined GCC can and will set a precedent for other industries,” says McGuire. “It’s vital to our progress as we move out of competitive silos and into a future where our collaborative efforts can make a difference.”

The launch of GCC New York bolsters the existing efforts of Galleries Commit, the local, worker-led climate initiative that formed in the city in 2020. Galleries Commit and GCC emerged simultaneously in New York and London, respectively, and have worked together to align with sustainability goals ever since. They are both founders of a International Visual Arts Climate Pact and have supported climate actions, including reducing emissions and waste, sharing resources and land conservation donations.

The Guggenheim, for example, carried out a study of the carbon emissions of its 2022 exhibition Cecilia Vicuna: Spin Spin Triangulene in consultation with the artist and Art into Acres, the non-profit organization founded by Mellin that supports large-scale land conservation. Upon completion of the study, the Guggenheim engaged in emissions reduction work and supported permanent land conservation through Art into Acres in Chile, Vicuña’s home country.

Conserved Area of ​​Southern Chile, a protected area supported in conjunction with the Cecilia Vicuña exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum © Eduardo Hernandez. Courtesy of Rewilding Chile

“There is a powerful grassroots legacy in New York that is indicative of the kind of community-led change needed to effectively address the most perilous effects of the climate crisis,” Lupton says. “Climate mastery and community are needed to inspire continued action. This ongoing action is made possible through the resources and tools provided by GCC.

While the long-term goal of the New York Chapter is to align with GCC’s carbon reduction and zero waste plans, the short-term focus will be on building relationships with groups like Commit Galleries. “One of GCC New York’s key roles will be to create a community focused on sharing information and resources and supporting and encouraging each other for effective climate action,” said Heath Lowndes, Managing Director. of GCC. “Collaboration will be crucial for this, so beginning community awareness and alignment will be the first step towards institutional support.”

With many overlapping members, including the Marianne Boesky Gallery and the Charles Moffett Gallery, GCC and Galleries Commit will continue to work in tandem to support New York’s arts sector at both the leadership and worker levels. Both groups have already taken advantage of each other. Galleries Commit, for example, uses GCC’s free carbon calculator to complement its climate impact reports.

Likewise, the steps that GCC members take with Galleries Commit can support the GCC Active membership program. Announced last year, Active Membership marks an important step in GCC’s growth as it aims to prevent greenwashing. The initiative requires participants to turn sustainability promises into concrete actions and will be reassessed annually. Galleries Commit recently launched a similar initiative called Climate action 8×8.

“GCC’s active membership marks a shift in strategy from providing resources and awareness to a strategy based on tangible action, strengthening GCC’s role in driving change in the sector,” says Lowndes. “Beyond the quantifiable benefits of making organizations more accountable, there is the intangible impact of accelerating the conversation about environmental responsibility and normalizing decarbonization strategies.”

In addition to the active membership program, GCC has marked several milestones of progress over the past three years. Beginning in July 2021, GCC has partnered with Christie’s and non-profit environmental law firm ClientEarth on a series of sales to raise unrestricted funds for ClientEarth. Within a year and thanks to sales of works by Cecily Brown, Rashid Johnson, Xie Nanxing, Antony Gormley and Beatriz Milhazes, the fundraising effort raised £5.5 million.

In the spring of 2022, GCC also launched a Sustainable Shipping Campaign based on two years of research and data collection. Working with environmental consultants, shipping and supply providers and representatives from across the arts sector, the project resulted in a comprehensive international campaign to address issues and set new shipping standards.

In terms of its continued expansion, the New York chapter of GCC represents a crucial step in linking local and global initiatives and building on the city’s intersectional grassroots movements.

“Education and awareness are key to sustainability. By focusing on intersectional approaches, GCC supports individualized action plans to address the industry-wide impact on the environment,” says Mellin, who is a founding member of the New York Chapters and of Los Angeles from GCC. “A global problem requires a global solution; we can only support a path to sustainability if we work together.

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