Art world organisations, galleries and artists helped fund conservation of a Peruvian cloud forest

22 April 2022

Over 40 donors supported the climate action led by Galleries Commit and Art to Acres, which will see nearly 200,000 acres preserved

Chuyapi Urusayhua Courtesy of Diego Pérez and ACCA.

Written by Annabel Keenan. Originally published by The Art Newspaper, 12 April 2022.

In a significant show of collective climate action, the sustainability group Galleries Commit has announced support of a new 200,000 acre, permanently-protected area in Peru. Called the Chuyapi-Urusayhua Regional Conservation Area, the location was conserved with support from matching funds from over 40 art institutions and individuals from around the world. Galleries Commit partnered with the artist-led non-profit Art to Acres to support conservation of the landscape, which is remarkable for its high biodiversity, provides drinking water for 40,000 local people and is part of the last 1% of cloud forests remaining globally.

Efforts to research and conserve the area began more than ten years ago, and Galleries Commit decided in 2020 to make the project its first Strategic Climate Fund recipient. Locally, conservation was led by the Amazon Conservation Association with support from Amazon Andes Fund and other conservation nonprofits and foundations.

“The local communities are stewarding this protection of a high biodiversity ecosystem in a remarkable manner,” Art to Acres founder Haley Mellin says. “The impetus to support sprung from artist Mika Rottenberg’s act to include a budget line-item for acreage conservation for her 2019 MCA Chicago exhibition. It grew to integrate studio, advisor, gallery and institutions’ first environmental contributions.”

With donations ranging from around $10 to over $9,000 and averaging $150, the project demonstrates how major impacts can be achieved even with modest donations. “Funding land conservation is a high impact and low effort climate action,” Galleries Commit co-founder Laura Lupton says. “To co-create sustainable galleries will require community building and collaboration. We saw land conservation as a powerful pathway to collective action. It also results in a tangible thing we can point to and say, ‘We supported that, together!’”

Yinka Shonibare, Air Kid (Boy) 1, 2022, from an exhibition at James Cohan that was the first to support the conservation project. © Yinka Shonibare 2022. Image courtesy the artist and James Cohan, New York

Support came from major museums, institutions and publications nationally and abroad including Artforum, ARTA, California College of Art, the Museums of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto and Kunstmuseum Bonn. Commercial galleries also contributed, including Galerie Frank Elbaz, James Cohan, PPOW and Hauser & Wirth. Individual support came from artists and curators including Robin F. Williams, Zaria Forman, Davide Balula and N. Dash.

The project gave organizations the opportunity to reflect on the framework of their commitments to sustainability. Marianne Boesky Gallery, for example, conserved over 22,000 acres by implementing a $35 “Carbon Conscious Contribution” on sales. Charles Moffett Gallery also based its donation on sales by contributing a portion of its overall gross.

“The scale and seemingly unstoppable repercussions of the climate crisis can feel daunting, particularly from the perspective of a small gallery,” gallerist Charles Moffett says. “To have the opportunity to join in collective action and play a part in this global effort has been an enlightening and humbling experience.”

With this first major action completed, Galleries Commit is focusing on supporting its members in a second set of Climate Impact Reports, co-presented with Artists Commit, to help improve sustainable operations and share information with other artists and institutions. Published publicly on Artists Commit’s website, the reports are another show of tangible action in the fight against climate change.