Environmental themes are increasingly present in the artistic field, both in the context of bienniales and of group and solo shows. Might the greater dynamism of Berlin, Copenhagen, Montreal or Moscow on these topics be explained by their geographical position, since global warming is more advanced and more visible in the Northern countries? This world tour of exhibitions in different types of venues reflects a commitment to and awareness of a new era. The faltering of anthropocentrism and the re-enchantment of our perception of living things are major components of this art in times of ecological crisis.

In Montreal and Vienna, two biennials eager for transformation

The Helsinki Biennale is coming to an end, having inaugurated a more ecological way of hosting such an artistic event. Up next is the MOMENTA biennial in Montreal, entitled Sensing Nature, which announces the trend of the new artistic season in 2021: moreinvested in ecology, linked to the social sphere, than ever before. Curator Stefanie Hesslerhas positioned herself at the intersection of environmental and social justice, drawing onintersectionality and putting humans to one side to focus on other interspecies relationships.The biennale’s 51 international artists and 15 exhibitions include Intimacy of the Unknown by Anne Duk Hee Jordan who combines monarch butterflies, amphibians, bacteria and fungi from the perspective of community and interspecies equity at the MMFA (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts). The museum will also present an exhibition devoted toecology until February 22nd, 2022: Ecologies, A song for our planet.

Another revealing biennale focused on environmental issues was the Vienna Biennale for Change, which ends on October 3, combining art, design and architecture under the eloquent title : Planet Love, Climate Care in the Digital Age. Its central exhibition, Climate Care, Reimagining Shared Planetary Futures at MAK (Museum of Applied Arts Vienna), brings together an impressive number of artists, designer researchers and collectives. Historical figures like Mark Dion and Amy Balkin rub shoulders with climate scientists like Ed Hawkins, EcoLogicStudio, FormaFantasma designers and young artists like Nicolàs Lamas.

Solo exhibitions by engaged artists

A number of solo exhibitions by artists working on environmental issues have also revealedthe importance of this topic on the artistic scene, with a strong, visible engagement in northern European countries and in Germany.

Berlin, home to a great number of artists committed to the topic of the environment, is undoubtedly thriving with activity. Until September 26th, Jakob Kudsk Steensen had transformed The Halle am Berghain into a swamp, a place he explored through its history and ecology. For his part, Tomás Saraceno inaugurated We Do Not All Breathe the Same Air inhis new gallery, Neugerriemschneider (following his exhibition at the Esther Schipper Gallery), and introduced eco-design principles: the exhibition is powered by solar panels and the opening hours of the gallery adapt according to the amount of external sunlight. Finally, on September 15th, Julian Charrière celebrated 10 years of collaboration with the Dittrich & Schlechtriem gallery in Berlin with the exhibition Soothsayers.

Since August 20, Rune Bosse has been sprouting trees and plants in the Gether Contemporary Gallery in Copenhagen. Not very far away in Oslo in Sweden, Sissel Tolaas, an iconic and engaged figure of olfactory art, will presents RE at the Astrup Fearnley Museetfrom October 8th (read the interview with Sissel Tolaas in Impact Art News here). This artist-scientist uses the sense of smell to act emotionally on visitors’ consciousness, and to raise awareness about the major issues related to climate change.

At Mu.ZEE, Ostend, Belgium, open since September 4, Exhumer le futur retraces twenty years of artistic practice by Maarten Vanden Eynde, a pioneering artist who attempts to respond to ecological issues: energy, raw materials, global warming, biodiversity… Starting from a distant future, he takes a retrospective look at the current world and humorously questions our perception of progress, renaming our species Homo Stupidus Stupidus.

For his first major solo show in New Delhi, which opened on September 19th, Manish Nai presents new works made from different materials, whose identities are called into question(read the interview with Manish Nai in Impact Art News here).

In Korea, the Barakat Contemporary in Seoul presents Mark Dion’s first major solo exhibition, The Sea Life of South Korea and Other Curious Taleswich opened on September 8. The artist, an amateur ecologist, archaeologist, and sometimes naturalist, presents a cabinet of curiosities of plastic objects collected in the Korean Sea, the laboratory of a marine biologist, and the majority of his sculptures and drawings from the last few years.

Large-scale group exhibitions

Moscow, which had already held a major thematic exhibition on ecology in 2019 at the Garage, continues on the same theme the Tretyakov Gallery with Matière Vivante (Living Matter), taking inspiration from Russian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky (1863-1945), father of “biosphere”.
300 works by 55 artists from Russia, Denmark, Finland, but also from Japan or the United States are brought together in the exhibition which also provides the opportunity to discover the specific productions of Russian artists such as Irina Korina, Anastasia Potemkina or Alexey Martins.

EARTH BEATS, the changing face of nature will open on October 9 at the Kuntshaus in Zurich, with 120 works by artists ranging from Ursula Biemann to Gustave Courbet.
It retraces the evolution of our relationship with nature over two centuries, with a focus on ecological issues.


Whilst waiting for social and environmental movements to propose a post-carbon and post-patriarchal society, the oil industry is continuing its course and feeding our global economy and movements, exacerbating global warming and plastic pollution. The Wolfsburg Art Museum in Germany has been exploring this “oil age” since September 4th, from fascination about its benefits to amazement at its current consequences for the planet and humanity. The exhibition features the iconic work denouncing climate skepticism, Western Flag by John Gerrard (see the talk link)The name of the main sponsor, Volkswagen, raises a host of questions: greenwashing or awareness?

Next month, Impact Art News will travel across France to discover this equally remarkable artistic trend.


Alice Audouin 

September 2021


Exhibitions mentioned in the article:

Sensing Nature, Biennale Monumenta, Montreal, from 8 september to 24 october 2021

MOMENTA X MBAM : Anne Duk Hee Jordan, intimité de l’inconnu, Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal, from 4 september 2021 to 2 january 2022

Ecologies, A song for our planet, Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal, from 10 march 2021 to 27 february 2022

Vienna Biennale for Change, PLANET LOVE. Climate Care in the Digital Age, Vienna, from 28 may to 3 october 2021

Berl-Berl, Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Halle am Berghain, Berlin, from 10 july to 26 september 2021

Solo Exhibition de Tomás Saraceno, Neugerriemschneider, Berlin, from 17 september to 31 october 2021

We do not all breathe the same air, Tomàs Saraceno, Neugerriemschneider, Berlin, du 17 septembre au 31 octobre 2021

Soothsayers, Julian Charrière, DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM, Berlin, Germany, from 15 september to 27 november 2021

States of Beeing, Rune Bosse, Gether contemporary, København, Denmark, from 20 august to 2 october 2021

RE, Sissel Tolaas, au Astrup Fearnley Museet d’Oslo in Sweden, from 8 october 2021 to 12 december 2021

« Exhumer le futur », Marteen Vanden Eynde, Mu.ZEE, Ostende, Belgium, from 4 september 2021 to 16 january 2022

Regenerative Visions, Manish Nai, The Dhan Mill, New Delhi, India, from 19 septembrer to 24 october 2021

Mark Dion: The Sea Life of South Korea and Other Curious Tales, Barakat Contempory, Seoul, from 8 september to 7 november 2021

Living Matter, Western Wing of the New Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, from 4 september to 10 october 2021

Oil, Beauty and Horror in the Petrol Age, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany, from 4 september 2021 to 9 january 2022

EARTH BEATS | THE CHANGING FACE OF NATURE, Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland, from 9 october 2021 to 6 february 2022

Other exhibitions to discover:

ALGA, Tue Greenfort, Eres Foundation, Munich, Germany, from 22 september 2021 to 29 january 2022

Fresh Air, Fabrice Hyber, galerie RX, New-York, from 2 september to 23 october 2021

Liquid Life, Kistefos Museum, Norwegia, from 23 may to 17 october 2021

Our Plastic Ocean, Mandy Barker, Street level photoworks, Glasgow, Scotland, from 7 august to 10 october 2021

The Sowers, Fondation Thalie, Brussels, from 9 september to 21 november 2021

Sea Art Festival 2021 : Non-/Human Assemblages, Busan, Korea, from 16 october to 14 november 2021

Art Encounters, Timisoara, Romania, from 1st october to 7 november 2021

The green path, Museum of fishery and shipbuilding of fishery boats in Perama, Athens, from 30 september to 19 november 2021

Tomás Saraceno : Event Horizon, Frederiksbergmuseerne, Copenhagen, Denmark, from 20 june 2021 to 30 november 2021

Credits : Exhibition Berl-Berl, Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Halle am Berghain, Berlin / / Anne Duk Hee Jordan, Staying with the Trouble, 2019, image tirée de la vidéo Exposition Intimacy of Strangers / Intimité de l’inconnu, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal / CLIMATE CARE, Reimagining Shared Planetary Futures, Thomas Wrede, Rhonegletscher-Panorama II [Rhône Glacier Panorama II], 2018, Pigment print on fine art paper, 80×260 cm/120×390 cm, Courtesy Beck & Eggeling, © Thomas Wrede/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / Rune Bosse, exposition States of beeing, Gether contemporary, photo par David Stjernholm

Find all the articles from Impact Art News n°33 – September 2021

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