August 12, 2020

Art in defense of the environment

The recent reopening of the New York MoMA is a good example of how museums are changing. Where before there was only room for certain artists and certain themes, now wide doors are opened that welcome the realities of creators of all kinds. Diversity is increasingly relevant. And it is present in museums because the cultural sector lives today of relevance, as Adrian Ellis writes in “The Art Newspaper" That is why it is natural that the climate crisis also enters the art galleries. Anticipating the arrival of Greta Thunberg in Madrid and the beginning of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, the Prado Museum and Thyssen-Bornemisza have joined the effort to raise awareness about the environmental crisis through art.

The Thyssen, as part of its agreement with the TBA21 foundation of Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, has done so with the arrival of “Western flag”By John Gerrard. The Irish artist created it two years ago to give “a political image to carbon dioxide.” It is a realistic simulation of a “hoisted” flag in Spindletop, Texas, where one of the oil fields that boosted the boom was since 1901. of that industry in the United States (it was there where giants like Exxon and Texaco were born.) But the flag is not made of any fabric, but of black smoke that emanates constantly from seven tubes.

“I want to be clear: this is not a recording, it is a virtual world. It is the same technology as videogames; it's a simulation, "explains the artist. The work was initially done for television on behalf of Channel 4 in the United Kingdom," but it became well known through social networks, because when Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement people began to publish it as a form of protest. Since then, people publish it when they are unhappy with the way governments are handling everything related to the environment. ”

For its part, the Prado has chosen and modified four masterpieces to show how we would live if the temperature increased more than 1.5ºC, the turning point established by scientists to avoid catastrophic consequences for the planet and for us. Thus, the "Felipe IV on horseback" that Velázquez portrays on a hill is now seen, literally, with the water around his neck. And “Children on the beach” in Sorolla no longer play alone on the shore, but surrounded by dead fish.

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Soledad Gutiérrez, curator of the Thyssen show and until last month director of CentroCentro, explains that “that black smoke that comes out of the flag is the combustion of carbon dioxide that is often invisible and that is also the main cause of the weather emergency And what seems interesting to me is precisely how, through contemporary artistic practice, we can open windows or generate a parallel world that helps us to question ourselves and make visible the problems of our current reality. "

Not only art lives man

But for many museums and galleries it is not just about exhibiting works that address these current issues, but about adopting positions or measures that make them more sustainable institutions. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Tate stopped receiving funds from the BP oil company after 26 years of an agreement between them. The decision came in 2016 after a series of protests led by the artistic collective Liberate Tate that claimed that the art gallery received financing from such a polluting company. Although the National Portrait Gallery in London has not broken its collaboration with BP, last month the National Galleries of Scotland did get rid of the oil company.

In Germany, a large number of directors of artistic institutions required the government to create a special team dedicated to studying the challenges that museums face so as not to continue contributing to the climate crisis. Susanne Pfeffer, director of the MMK in Frankfurt, was one of those who signed the petition, asking for specific objectives to be set on issues such as air conditioners, lighting and lending of works, among other activities that leave a deep carbon footprint

. (tagsToTranslate) Art (t) Culture and Shows (t) Thyssen Museum (t) Prado Museum

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