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Art for Earth’s Sake: The Art World Meets the Crisis

Michael Wang, Extinct in New York, 2019. Living organisms, lights, air and water circulation devices, substrate, aluminum, polycarbonate, and acrylic enclosures. Dimensions variable.

Art for Earth’s Sake: The Art World Meets the Crisis
With Bonnie Brennan, Russell Fortmeyer, David Nussbaum, Debra Scacco, and Michael Wang.
Moderated by Alex Sloane.

Lecture Environmental Council

Support for environmentally conscious art is surging, declared the NYT in early 2022, noting that more than a dozen exhibitions explicitly confronting climate change had been on view in cities from Santa Fe, N.M., to Singapore. MOCA itself has entered the conversation, with the establishment in 2020 of its Environmental Council. But is it enough to make chest-thumping art about climate change? What about the art world’s own contribution to the mammoth human-made carbon footprint–through boundless travel (private jets for art fairs!) shipments, post-installation waste; and through its financial entanglements, from philanthropic support from dirty industries to its role as a commodity in late-capitalism?

The Art World Meets the Crisis focuses on the environmental challenges within the art world and how it can use its outsized cultural influence to bring about change inside and out of the industry – with Michael Wang, artist and creator of the provocative 2012 Carbon Copies project; Debra Scacco, artist and founder of climate-focused research program Air, Russell Fortmeyer, engineer and member of the Gallery Climate Coalition (GCC).

In a display of future possibilities, David Nussbaum, founder of Proto, will beam in Bonnie Brennan, the New York-based President of Christie's Americas, as a hologram. The conversation is moderated by Alex Sloane, MOCA Associate Curator.

Is it time to focus on local artists, and cultivate more regional art communities? Or go global while staying in place, with a little help from holograms?

About Art For Earth's Sake
Artists are increasingly exploring the climate crisis in their work. What about the art world’s contribution to the climate crisis, from its boundless international travel to the growth of energy-intensive art forms and installations? MOCA considers the creative ways in which the art world is addressing its own environmental footprint in Art for Earth’s Sake, a series of five public presentations and panels, taking place in fall, 2022. Invited artists, academics, activists, industry insiders and journalists will explore topics ranging from greening art facilities and art fairs to reckoning with environmental justice. Finally, the program will consider the impact of making the industry more sustainable on artistic expression itself.

About Bonnie Brennan
Bonnie Brennan is President of Christie’s, Americas. In this role, Bonnie oversees Christie’s strategic business opportunities and client engagement efforts in the United States. She leads our team in the Americas and she is focused on driving new growth and building on Christie’s innovations while always maintaining the firm’s steadfast commitment to serving clients and meeting their needs in a fast-paced and evolving art world.

Bonnie Brennan has 25 years of experience in the auction business – the past 10 at Christie’s, most recently serving as Chairman of Business Development in the Americas. She brings a history of successes in client development and enjoys strong relationships with both clients and their advisors. Bonnie has played a critical role in securing and managing the highly successful sales of The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection, The Collection of Jayne Wrightsman, and Property from Cleveland Clinic, among many others.

Prior to her career at Christie’s, she worked in business development roles at Sotheby’s New York for 15 years. Bonnie is a graduate of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where she was a double-major in Art History and Communications

About Russell Fortmeyer
As Woods Bagot’s global sustainability leader, Russell Fortmeyer leads the firm’s response to climate change and ecological imperatives across our operations, culture, and projects. Trained as an engineer and architect, he practices at all scales of design and planning. In his previous role with the global engineering firm, Arup, Russell developed the net zero energy design for the US Embassy in Beirut and the sustainability strategy for the Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi, both of which are currently in construction. In 2019, he was the curator of the US Pavilion, RECKONstruct, at the Milan Triennale, which focused on materials lifecycle assessments and the emerging circular economy. He also led the technical team for the Green New Deal for the City of Los Angeles released in 2019, which mapped a pathway to zero emissions by 2050. Russell has taught environmental systems at the Southern California Institute of Architecture since 2011. His research includes a 2014 book on façade design, Kinetic Architecture, and a 2016 Bellagio Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation to advance his study of air quality in urban public spaces. He has a BS in architectural engineering from Kansas State University and an MA in Architecture from the University of California, Los Angeles.

About David Nussbaum
David Nussbaum is an award-winning writer and producer who founded Proto after 20 years in the entertainment industry, having spent time in sports radio, television, podcasting and live events. He is a pioneer in the hologram business – being the first to produce stadium-sized, major pop cultural events after the famous Tupac Shakur at Coachella event. His company licensed the technology and created hologram experiences involving Whitney Houston, Ronald Reagan, a live fashion show for Dior in Shanghai, and many more global events. David’s vision for Proto has been to make what was a rarified experience available to every company, organization, office, school, festival and even to every home. He perfected the hologram experience in his own living room before securing his first public displays and, very quickly after that, funding and key partnerships. The company has accelerated to a $100M+ valuation, offices around the world, major awards from CES, SXSW and Fast Company, and is working with dozens of Fortune 500 companies, the biggest entertainment companies in the world, all the major pro sports leagues, and more every day.

With the slogan, “If you can’t BE there, BEAM there!” David walks the walk. He beams from company headquarters in Los Angeles to meetings in San Francisco, New York, London and Paris every week to save on business travel time and expense – and even carbon damage and pandemic risk. Proto has beamed everyone from Usain Bolt to Ellen Degeneres, Sean “Diddy” Combs to Lewis Hamilton, and even Degas and Giacometti sculptures across oceans (breaking these artists’ auction records in the process). Proto was used in a dozen shows and installations at Art Basel Miami last year and is in use at medical schools, museums, sports venues, on red carpets in Hollywood and beyond. David lives in Southern California with his wife and three children.

About Debra Scacco
Debra Scacco's research-based practice spans the creation of studio works, installations, public art, curating, education, writing, community engagement and oral history. Rooted in personal experiences of immigration, her work interrogates the intersection of policy, ecology and futurism.  Her work has been exhibited at galleries, institutions and public sites internationally including MOAH (Museum of Art and History), Lancaster; Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles; Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles; LAX Airport, Los Angeles; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Viper Basel, Switzerland; Los Angeles State Historic Park, Los Angeles; Royale Projects, Los Angeles; James Cohen Gallery, New York and Patrick Heide Gallery, London. Her work is included in private and public collections including Hammer Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and CAA. Scacco's projects have been supported by National Endowment for the Arts, Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, The Durfee Foundation, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, The Wilhelm Foundation, The Mellon Foundation and more. In 2019, she was acknowledged as a Cultural Trailblazer by the City of Los Angeles. In 2012, Scacco was the inaugural artist-in-residence at Ellis Island Museum and Statue of Liberty National Monument in conjunction with New Jersey City University.

Scacco is Founding Director of climate-focussed creative research program Air, organizing member of Artists Commit, Co-Director of Getty Pacific Standard Time project Brackish Water Los Angeles, and Co-Founder of art worker mutual aid cooperative Contemporary Art League. Her efforts to lateralize knowledge and engage students in interdisciplinary research and an active studio practice include teaching at institutions including California State University Dominguez Hills and Occidental College.  

Michael Wang is an artist based in New York. His practice uses systems that operate at a global scale as media for art, addressing climate change, species distribution, resource allocation and the global economy. Wang's work was the subject of solo exhibitions at LMCC's Arts Center at Governors Island, New York, USA (curated by Swiss Institute, 2019) and the Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy (2017). His work has also been included in the 13th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai, China (2021), Manifesta 12 in Palermo, Italy (2018) and the XX Bienal de Arquitectura y Urbanismo in Valparaíso, Chile (2017). In 2017, he was a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant.

Art for Earth’s Sake is organized by Frances Anderton and Livia Mandoul.

MOCA’s environmental programming series highlights the museum’s work around climate, conservation, and environmental justice. Guided by the work of the MOCA Environmental Council, the first sustainability council at a major arts museum in the United States, this series presents artists, activists, and scholars committed to critical ecological issues in Los Angeles and globally.

The 2022 series is made possible by Nora McNeely Hurley and Manitou Fund.