MUSEUMS AND EXHIBITIONS
Museums are increasingly hosting climate change works and exhibitions as the world continues to feel the effects of the warming planet. Already in 1999, the Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth opened at The American Museum of Natural History in 1999, with climate change as one of the five major focus areas. By 2018, climate change was recognized in the museum as “one of the most urgent scientific issues of our time” and the exhibition was updated with a new installation, anchored by a media wall featuring large-scale imagery, animations, text and graphics, and interactive panels. Founded in 2015, by 2018, climate change even had its own museum. Housed originally at the Parsons School of Design, The Climate Museum opened its first show on January 25, 2018, bathing the outside sidewalk in a cool blue light from a video of the Greenland Ice Sheet, a new work by Los Angeles artist Peggy Weil. By summer, 2021, its founder Miranda Massie, was on Governors Island launching a poster campaign called Beyond Lies, a collaboration between the museum and Mona Chalabi, data editor at the Guardian US as well as a journalist and illustrator. Still fully committed to the cause of galvanizing action through learning, she said, “Art is built into who we are and how we’re communal,” she said. “We always try to bring art and science together, and without the science, we’d be nowhere.… But it’s not as important for people to learn the details of climate science as it is for them to feel connected in the human project of changing the world.”
Venues continue to expand outside of museum walls. Since 2003, the San Francisco-based FOR-SITE Foundation has centered “art about place,” mounting numerous exhibitions including ”@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz” in 2014. With its latest, “Lands End” (11/7/2021-3/27/2022) the setting is San Francisco’s historic Cliff House. There, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, 26 artists from Britain’s Andy Goldsworthy to Mexico’s Ana Teresa Fernandez, are using painting, photography, sculpture, sound, and other media to respond to the climate crisis. Thinking about the ways in which the artists intersect, Fernandez said in reference to Goldsworthy’s piece and hers, “Mine is about an abundance of water and his is about scarcity and dryness. But this is very much what the conversation around climate change is—extremes, and all the complexities in between.”
And sometimes art takes over a city as it did in Chicago with works sprawling throughout the city, using the physical world as a display for artwork about societal issues and climate change. In this case the MacArthur Foundation invited 29 of its genius grantees to showcase work exploring issues of environmental racism. As the world continues to change, the way artists and exhibitions display their work will change with it.