art, the built environment, & the Bizot Green Protocol

Works of art. History. Cultural heritage. The market. Galleries. Art fairs. Museums. Private museums. Institutional and private collections. Fiduciary care. Value.

Let’s consider a pressing issue:

How collections are housed, managed, and cared for and the protection of works of art and tangible assets in an age of increasingly erratic weather, increasing sea-level rise, floods, fires, storms, … and pandemics – which in themselves and the response to which can be devastating.

Does one barricade the art behind flood walls and barriers? Insure the works of art? (Insurance is a good idea. Insurance does not, however, mitigate or prevent future damage. Insurance is used to protect the “value” of the art, not the work of art itself. It is used after damage occurs to recover value.)

Can we protect works of art while mitigating possible future damage?

Atmospheric CO2 is a key factor leading towards the storms, floods, and fires that can be so damaging to art and tangible assets. Is it possible to care for our collections while reducing emissions of CO2 into the air?

The Bizot Group of museum directors, or the International Group of Organizers of Large-scale Exhibitions, thinks so.

Max Hollein, now the Director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, was Chairman of the Bizot Group in 2014. Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Gugenheim Museum, and Glen Lowry, Director of the Museum of Modern Art, are members.

Wangechi Mutu (Kenyan, born Nairobi, 1972), “The Seated II” (bronze, 2019) situated in one of four niches in the facade of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Courtesy of the the artist, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.


Wangechi Mutu (Kenyan, born Nairobi, 1972), “The Seated II” (bronze, 2019). Courtesy of the the artist, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Axel Rüger, Director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam from 2006 until June of 2019 when he left the Van Gogh Museum to take up a new appointment as Chief Executive of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, is a member.

So are many others.

The Bizot Group agreed the Bizot Green Protocol in 2015:

The directors agree that museums can reduce the amount of CO2 emissions they are responsible for while recognizing their duty of care to collections:

1.  Guiding Principles
Museums should review policy and practice, particularly regarding loan requirements, storage and display conditions, and building design and air conditioning systems, with a view to reducing carbon footprints.

Museums need to find ways to reconcile the desirability of long-term preservation of collections with the need to reduce energy use.

Museums should apply whatever methodology or strategies best suit their collections, building and needs, and innovative approaches should be encouraged.

The care of objects is paramount. Subject to this,

environmental standards should become more intelligent and better tailored to specific needs. Blanket conditions should no longer apply. Instead conditions should be determined by the requirements of individual objects or groups of objects and the climate in the part of the world in which the museum is located;

where appropriate, care of collections should be achieved in a way that does not assume air conditioning or other high energy cost solutions. Passive methods, simple technology that is easy to maintain, and lower energy solutions should be considered;

natural and sustainable environmental controls should be explored and exploited fully;

when designing and constructing new buildings or renovating old ones, architects and engineers should be guided significantly to reduce the building’s carbon footprint as a key objective;

the design and build of exhibitions should be managed to mimimise waste and recycle where possible.

2.  Guidelines
For many classes of object containing hygroscopic material (such as canvas paintings, textiles, ethnographic objects or animal glue) a stable relative humidity (RH) is required in the range of 40 – 60% and a stable temperature in the range 16-25°C with fluctuations of no more than ±10% RH per 24 hours within this range. More sensitive objects will require specific and tighter RH control, depending on the materials, condition, and history of the work of art. A conservators evaluation is essential in establishing the appropriate environmental conditions for works of art requested for loan.

Environmental Sustainability – reducing museums’ carbon footprint,”National Museum Directors Council

See:

Environmental sustainability – reducing museums’ carbon footprint,” National Museum Directors Council

Wangechi Mutu: The NewOnes, will free us,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Facade Commission, 9 September 2019 – 9 June 2020

Wangechi Mutu, Gladstone Gallery

Axel Rϋger Appointed Chief Executive of London’s Royal Academy of Arts,” Artforum, 13 February 2019

Axel Rüger,” 40 Under 40 Europe 2018, Apollo Magazine, 3 September 2018

Groupe Bizot, Letter of 26 February 2014 to Mr. Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *