Art Institutions Aren’t Doing Enough to Lead on Climate Change. Here’s How the Industry Should Rethink Our Responsibility

Installation view, “COAL + ICE” at the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture in San Francisco.

It’s 2022 and the warning lights are flashing more urgently than ever. Climate change-induced heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, floods, and forest fires are crippling our planetary operating system. In 2021, the U.S. set more heat records than it had in the previous three decades. Even so, as one strolls through the world’s galleries, art fairs, and museums, this shared emergency hardly stands out as a core concern. It’s not just that we could use more art and exhibitions about climate change. The art world and its institutions need to lead the way in helping society respond, partly by making lasting changes in their own behavior.

It was with these considerations in mind that we, on behalf of the Asia Society and together with the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, initiated a call to an emerging generation of artists—those who will face the incipient environmental collapse head-on—to put forward works that directly address the scale, urgency, and complexity of the climate-change threat.

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