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The artists as spokespersons of Climate Change

by Giuditta Giardini

Jeppe Hein’s work “Breath with me”, commissioned by the ART 2030 organization with the adhesion of the United Nations, on the occasion of the Summit for Climate Action on 23 September, will move from the United Nations headquarters, where it is exhibited until to September 24, in Central Park, 72nd Street (September 25-27). Greta Thunberg or not, the rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) is a fact. We can sit on the side of the wrong between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and American President Donald Trump and pretend that nothing is happening, that our planet is eternal and that man is immortal, or let ourselves be sensitized by an increasingly populous group of artists. who choose to be the spokesperson for the hottest topic of these times: the rise in the earth’s temperature.


On 21 September, Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson was appointed UN Ambassador for Urgent Climate Action and Sustainable Development. Years after his “Weather Project” (2003), Olafur Eliasson returned to the Tate Modern in London (until January 2020) with the solo show “In Real Life” which focuses on climate and the environment (a February 2020 the exhibition will travel to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain). One of the key themes of Eliasson’s artistic production since the 1990s has been the creation of new scenarios through lights (“Din Blinde Passanger”, 2010), projections (“Your Uncertain Shadow, color”, 2010), spectra (“Color Spectrum Kaleidoscope “, sold at Sotheby’s in November 2018 for about $ 100,000), kaleidoscopes and spirals (” Your Spiral View “, 2002). Born in Iceland, Eliasson has always been interested in the fate of glaciers (“The Fault Series”, beaten by Sotheby’s in June 2019 for a value of € 76,876), but since 2014 his art has been tinged with a political vein . Central becomes the theme of ice and water (“Big Bang Fountain”, 2014), since 2014 he has collaborated with geologist Minik Rosing for “Ice Watch”, an installation for which blocks of ice fished in the seas around Greenland are presented in urban contexts, in the center of squares, where they are left to melt. “Ice Watch” was represented in Copenhagen at the time of the publication of the fifth UN IPCC Assessment Report on climate change and in 2015 in Paris at the COP21 UN Climate Conference, in 2018 in London in front of Bloomberg Europe headquarters and at the Tate Modern. According to Eliasson: “Feelings (provoked by his works) lead to action and that is the only reason for making art.” Eliasson will go on auction this autumn with “Color Experiment No. 72” at Sotheby’s London on 3 October (estimated between € 90,000-134,000) and two lots “The Landscape Series” (€ 56,000 – € 80,000) and “Die kleine lavastein-serie” (€ 22,000-33,000) at Christie’s in London on 27 September.

Some projects on the subject are interesting, such as «Dear Climate», with the motto “Dear Climate, you change quickly and we would like to change with you!” which brings the debate closer to the network, or “Climate Art Project”, a traveling project created by the scientist and artist Andreco after the Paris Agreement on climate (2015). His works also interested Italy, touching three cities with three different themes related to the place: Bologna (“Climate 02 Emissions”), Bari (“Climate 03 Desertification”) and Venice (“Climate 04 Sea Level Rise”) . Not only modern art, but also the paintings of Turner, Rembrandt, Rubens have given their contribution to the analysis of the atmospheric phenomenon. A study published in the scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and directed by Christos Zerefos, professor of atmospheric physics at the Athens Academy, shows how Turner’s 1818 red-green sunsets ratio (+ 76.7%), 1832 ( + 79%), 1835 (+ 97.7%), is higher in conjunction with volcanic eruptions. The same variation was appreciated in Friedrich Caspar David’s sunsets. These studies allow us to advance theories on the state of the atmosphere at the time in which the paintings were made.

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