How the Arts Can Help Us Face the World’s Most Pressing Challenges

This article is part of a special report on the Art for Tomorrow conference held in Florence, Italy.

Florence, Italy — There are twice as many billionaires in the world today as there were in 2012, and their wealth has more than doubled since then.

Women make up half of the world’s population Only about 10% of art purchased by U.S. museums Created by female artists in the last decade or so.

There are 700 million people in Africa, about half of the continent’s total population. may move By the end of this decade a global climate emergency.

These jaw-dropping stats were cited last week at the three-day Art for Tomorrow conference. The conference is an annual event hosted by the Foundation for Democracy and Culture, moderated by a New York Times journalist. This year it was held in Florence, Italy. Three years after the COVID-19 pandemic, the gathering provided an opportunity for art professionals, collectors, curators and artists to take stock of the current situation and ask: “Can art help meet the challenges facing the world today?”

Speakers at the Florence Forum seized the opportunity to highlight persistent gender and income inequalities in the art world and the actions needed to avert climate change catastrophe. Also on the agenda: A detailed discussion of the market collapse of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Among the first topics broached was gender. In a lively conversation, international art her dealer Rachel Lehmann, co-founder of the Lehmann Maupin gallery, said the vast and persistent gap between men and women when it comes to displaying and buying art condemned the

Lehman acknowledged that progress has been made in the last decade. The percentage of female artists entering New York City’s Whitney Biennale has risen from 28% to 48%, she said, nearly nine of the 10 major exhibitions at the 2022 Venice Art Biennale. was by a woman, he added.

But “purchasing power still belongs to men,” she said. “Men buy art. Men buy men’s art.”

“My gallery is supported by female collectors, and many of the female artists we represent,” she added.

The only way to balance things, she suggested, is to raise children in a more equal world. and “really share” the work and make it fair.Split.

“It will take a while,” she said, adding that “power belongs to women,” citing the example of women in Iran who were leading protests for democracy.

Another wake-up call in Florence was Clare Farrell, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, a UK-based international environmental movement that has led to mass protests in recent years.

Farrell painted a sinister picture of the planet’s future. “We are facing something that I don’t think anyone can really grasp the seriousness of,” she said, adding that “millions, if not billions, of He argued that people could die without urgent action.

Commenting on the recent spate of attacks on art masterpieces by environmentalists, including the two who threw canned tomato soup all over Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London in October, she said: I approve of this move. It’s the conversation these young people want you to have.

“It is obscene that people should be concerned about the possibility of damaging a single work of art, knowing that the planet has suffered so much.”

“If we’re more interested in conversations about how soup appears in paintings, we’re out of touch with humanity,” she added.

Fellow panelist Anne Pasternak, director of the Brooklyn Museum, said climate activists are “doing whatever it takes to call attention to the situation in which we find ourselves as a planet.” Admitted. She added that museums would become “totally irrelevant” if they were not part of the solution to the climate crisis.

But Pasternak refused to condone attacks on the arts, saying he was looking forward to “the good old days of ACT UP and AIDS activism.” It has successfully raised awareness of the AIDS epidemic.

She said that the members of ACT UP were “very creative about their activities, they weren’t destroying anything”, and they were also getting “global coverage and positive attention”. Referring to recent vandalism of paintings, she warned that activists “could hurt things,” adding, “I really have to wonder if this will have positive consequences for climate change. “

The Brooklyn Museum is one of many museums in the world. We strive to reduce our carbon usageAnother is the Serpentine Gallery, where artistic director Hans-Ulrich Obrist attended events in Florence.

The Serpentine regularly presents shows by artists whose work interacts with the environment. From June 1st he will take over the gallery until September 10th by the artist Tomas Saraceno. Solo exhibition on climate emergencyDuring that period, Obrist said the Serpentine “has no air conditioning.” “He also has a series of solar panels on the roof, through which the video only works.”

At the same time, he said, Serpentine is changing its own way of working. Instead of throwing away exhibition walls, partitions, and designs, it’s recycling that reuses them.for its 2021-22 Retrospective exhibition of Haitian-French artist Hervé TelemaqueAccording to Obrist, the decision was made to borrow all the pieces from French museums and collections and put them “all together” in one truck.

And in the future, the idea is to plan a longer-term exhibition.

This year, by the end of the year, total NFT sales could drop significantly. His daily sales for his NFTs averaged $500 million in August 2021, said panel moderator Scott Reyburn, citing the following stats: crypto slamtoday, NFTs average about $20 million in sales per day.

One of the panelists, programmer and painter Michaël Zancan, introduced himself as an NFT artist who creates images with lines of programming code. Tezos BlockchainHe said he kept his earnings in cryptocurrencies rather than converting them into cryptocurrencies and took a big financial hit.

He said the crash of NFTs and cryptocurrencies is an “investor’s problem”, not for artists who have to keep working. He welcomed the fact that he was being watched and said, “In the future, NFTs will be associated with good art.”

What about the central question of whether art can be a way of meeting some of the world’s many challenges?

“I don’t think art changes reality,” said Israeli-born filmmaker Amos Gitai. It is “a trace of memory, this is nothing”.

He recalled that Picasso’s landmark painting Guernica, which depicts a bombed Basque village during the Spanish Civil War, did not stop dictator Francisco Franco from ruling Spain until the 1970s. pointed out that fascism still resonates in today’s liberal democracies.- Sun Spain.

Still, he recalled that when a new prime minister took office a few years ago, he set a top priority on retrieving Franco’s bones from the mausoleum where he was buried. said Gitaï.

“If artists, extremists, poets and writers didn’t do their jobs, it wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “These traces must be left, and the traces make the work.”

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