Making Art Fair Shipping Sustainable: Artists And Galleries Call For Change (Recording + Highlights)

This week’s ArtEvolve was presented by Articheck and DACS. We looked at sea freight shipping and the carbon and cost savings it affords in comparison to air and road. Our guests were:

  • Mark Waugh, Business Development Director at DACS. Established by artists for artists, DACS acts as trusted artist rights broker for 100,000 artists worldwide.
  • Sarah Staton, artist and Senior Tutor of Sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London.
  • Simon Hornby, SVP & General Manager at Crozier Europe.
  • Christopher Bentley, Head of Fine Arts UK, AXA XL Art.


Why is change necessary when it comes to shipping?

The art fair calendar pre-pandemic has exploded over the last decade, with our panelists estimating there may be almost 1000 art fairs with international recognition. With so many events taking place each year, the quantity of art being moved around the world is far greater than ever before.

Our institutions and the industry as whole will need to push for exponential change if we are to come close to meeting the target of cutting CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030.


Sea vs air

In a recent case study, Cadogan Tate oversaw the shipping of 31 paintings and sculptures by Gary Hume, from London to New York. By choosing to ship by sea, rather than by air, they calculate that almost 24 tonnes of greenhouse gas were saved – the equivalent of 16,500 people driving 2 miles each way to visit an art gallery.

Although figures will vary depending on the circumstances of individual moves, the 96% reduction in carbon footprint of this case study demonstrates how there are huge savings to be made across the industry.


Results of an ArtEvolve poll on the barriers to using sea freight


Mitigating the risk of sea freight

Sea freight is more cost-effective and uses less carbon than road or air, but, historically hasn’t been easy to insure. Christopher Bentley, from AXA XL Art, spoke about the importance of putting this in context, stating it was a relatively modest additional risk that broadly comes from accidental damage caused by impact and shock, and from climatic conditions, such as increased humidity.

To mitigate risk, AXA XL have been working in conjunction with insurers, surveyors, and industry bodies to create a new set of guidelines that are practical for both galleries and shippers.

Here at Articheck we have incorporated the guidelines into our Virtual Courier solution to provide the guidelines, checklists, and a platform for shippers to confirm compliance easily and quickly.



The role of the artist in advocating for change

Mark Waugh from DACS spoke about the need for artists to put sustainability at the forefront of their minds when negotiating with galleries as well as in their work itself. At art fairs, this could mean more work constructed on site, with materials sourced locally rather than automatically shipped across the globe. Questioning if it is absolutely necessary for an artwork to be transported will be key.

An example of this kind of shift in thinking is Sarah Staton’s SupaStore. This exhibition-slash-shop series has been running since the 1990s and has been hosted by galleries and museums around the world. A recent London edition featured work almost exclusively from the UK, with many artists based in the capital itself. Emphasizing work that already exists, rather than commissioning new pieces, is an additional focus.

Sarah also mentioned her recent work with deliberately small-scale sculptures in wax and clay, which are easy to transport. In fact, for a new SupaStore opening in Seoul, she decided to ship a minimal number of pieces in a Nike shoebox, with other works sent digitally via Google Drive.


Thank you to DACS for jointly organizing this webinar and to our guests Mark Waugh of DACS, Sarah Staton, Simon Hornby of Crozier, and Christopher Bentley of AXA XL Art