With world temperatures hitting record highs this summer, a plethora of exhibitions in London and beyond explore our relationship to the planet
What can art do about a crisis? This is a question that a growing number of museums across the world have been faced with as they mount exhibitions addressing the climate emergency.
In the past six months alone, institutions ranging from London’s Hayward Gallery (Dear Earth, now closed) to the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Emerging Ecologies: Architecture and the Rise of Environmentalism, until 20 January 2024) have opened eco-themed exhibitions. This month, a spate of new shows across London take up the baton, offering fresh perspectives on the subject’s relationship to wider society and taking the conversation out into the “real world”.
RE/SISTERS: A Lens of Gender and Ecology, at the Barbican (until 14 January 2024), explores the “systemic links” between the oppression of women and the exploitation of the planet, says Alona Pardo, its curator. It brings together a group of around 250 works by women and gender non-conforming artists—a large portion from indigenous communities and the Global South—that focus on care and connection…
Meanwhile, over at the William Morris Gallery in east London (21 October-18 February 2024), a new version of Radical Landscapes—previously on view at Tate Liverpool—will highlight the socialist, utopian philosophies of Morris himself. The designer and thinker wrote extensively on the dangers of allowing our green spaces to be overrun by industrialisation. A room devoted to his ideas will be included beside displays of what the British landscape signifies to artists as diverse as Thomas Gainborough, Anthea Hamilton, Jeremy Deller and Veronica Ryan…
For Bain, putting on a show about climate change alone just “doesn’t work”. Instead, her mission is to “highlight the green space we have around us”. This simple idea is one that other museums across the UK are inventively responding to. Queer Nature at Kew Gardens (until 29 October), also in London, will be an eclectic festival celebrating the diversity of British plant life and fungi, with a special commission by Jeffrey Gibson—the artist selected to represent the US at the 2024 Venice Biennale—at its heart. The Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, meanwhile, recently announced a programme of exhibitions, interventions, collection displays, artist-led workshops and more that will take place across its leafy grounds and “mobilise the Sainsbury Centre as a space of hope”…
Still, critics increasingly ask, what can art truly contribute in a struggle that requires practical, drastic action on a grand scale? Artists will be continually trying to come up with answers of their own.
RE/SISTERS: A Lens on Gender and Ecology, Barbican, London, until 14 January 2024
Radical Landscapes: Art inspired by the land, William Morris Gallery, London, 21 October 2023-18 February 2024
Queer Nature, Kew Gardens, London, until 29 October
Planet for our Future, Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, until March 2024
Barbican Centre (11-13-2023):
RE/SISTERS: A Lens on Gender and Ecology (trailer)