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Art & Sustainability

As international art consultants, Artelier are industry leaders in sourcing sustainable art, collaborating with worldwide artists. With sustainability becoming a global movement, increasing numbers of clients are seeking eco-conscious artworks; we have curated sustainable art collections for luxury hospitality, residential, yacht and aviation projects. We dive into how sustainable art brings low-impact luxury to contemporary spaces.

Sustainable Art for Luxury Contexts

The Drive for Sustainability

The drive for sustainability has grown tremendously in the last few years, with individuals and businesses alike becoming committed to sustainable values. What once was more of a fashionable trend has rightly become a major cross-sector movement, and increasingly diverse industries are promoting eco-conscious practices. Most importantly, consumers are holding companies accountable for their claims, and want them to do more than swap out plastic straws or reuse cups. This has led to a push for innovative new concepts, uses of materials, and structural changes, so that the needs of projects are met in a significantly more sustainable way.

Within sectors such as luxury hospitality or residential development, a major question has arisen over how to deliver the exquisite interior design that a discerning clientele have come to expect, whilst also being sustainable. Naturally, the two do not need to be mutually exclusive – much of cutting-edge luxury design now favours natural materials and a stripped-back simplicity, which lends itself to sustainable products. A key way of sustainably creating adding luxury to these spaces are intelligently curated artworks. Sustainable artworks can bridge the gap between creating a stunning aesthetic experience and promoting environmentally responsible design.

As art consultants, Artelier have discovered first-hand how art can enhance and deepen a project’s focus on sustainability. Here, Artelier’s curators offer their insight into the dilemmas faced by luxury industries, and explore how inventive artists can create sustainable artworks by transforming humble materials into stunning installations.

Bespoke Textile Artwork Using Ancient Felting Techniques Commissioned for Private Client

The Dilemma of Decorating Sustainably

After architectural and engineering efforts, it is critical for the interior design to likewise be sustainable, whilst creating the right aesthetic impression. Few luxury items, however, can offer sustainability, since often they are made from materials like precious metals and rare marbles. Artworks are in themselves luxury items, and can meanwhile be produced with full sustainability in mind – artists can take basic and sustainable materials and through their craftsmanship make them luxury items. Rather than being a 'token' sustainable element, a newly commissioned artwork can reflect the owner’s own sustainable philosophy as each aspect of producing the artwork can be transparently low-impact.

The idea of bespoke items and artworks has long been at the height of luxury, and so many private clients have supported artists through commissioning artworks. In their pursuit of the bespoke and one-off, patrons have championed low-volume craftsmanship for their willingness to pay for artworks to be hand-made specially for them. In recent years, technology has advanced so much that a similar visual effect can be achieved – eye-catching surfaces can be cost-effectively created by companies with faux metals, resins and plastics. Whilst they meet the tastes of clients and can be seductively beautiful objects, the materials used to create these effects are not sustainable. When private clients instead choose to invest in commissioned artworks, they not only receive an ultra bespoke interior feature, but a significantly more sustainable option.

Sustainability for Private Residences & Yachts

Living in a sustainable home and decorating in an eco-friendly way is a personal concern for many private clients, who are now more conscious of the impact of individual lifestyles. The challenge with private contexts, however, is that clients still want to experience the finer things, and so industries have to create sustainable solutions that do not compromise luxury.

Sustainably Sourced Carved Wood Commissions for Chalet

Structurally, many changes can be made to luxury residences to minimise their environmental impact. If designing a new build bespoke residence, for example, architects can utilise sunlight and prevailing wind when orientating architectural features; this can naturally insulate the house in winter, and ventilate it in the summer, minimising energy consumption. In new and re-developed properties alike, the use of resources can be reduced with water-recycling fixtures, passive solar power, and low energy lighting.

Unlike private homes, where much can be done so that the residence utilises natural surroundings and resources, other luxury contexts like yachts are distinctly more challenging. These industries have an unavoidably higher impact on the environment, due to the engineering's need for complex materials and exceptionally vast amounts of fuel.

Superyachts are very much within the public eye, more so than residences, and so yacht owners are increasingly evaluating how their yachts can better reflect their own personal interests and values. A significant proportion of Artelier's art consultancy is delivering art for yachts, and in recent years we have witness a shift of yacht owners becoming more concerned for their environmental impact. Thanks to the demand of individual yacht owners for the industry to become more eco-conscious, yacht design is beginning to change. In the last couple of years, shipyards have created innovative superyachts that are solar and electrically powered with industrial batteries, incorporate reclaimed and recycled materials, and reuse grey-water. In many ways, this shift makes the experience truer to the essence of yachting – harnessing nature's forces to traverse the ocean.

Bespoke Art and Sustaimable oak frames for Sea Eagle II

This has led to great leaps in eco-yacht design. Dutch superyacht shipyard Oceanco launched Black Pearl (106.7m), whose ground-breaking ecologically focused engineering utilises wind-power, solar and hydrogen energy for onboard operations, and has inbuilt regeneration and insulation features that minimise energy consumption. Black Pearl’s engineering is efficient enough that she is capable of crossing the Atlantic without using a drop of fuel. The push towards this level of innovation was inspired by the yacht owner, whose own engineering background and climate concern encouraged the yacht yard do push existing boundaries.

Artelier has also seen how many yacht owners are now increasingly considering sailing yachts, rather than purely motor-powered. We recently commissioned an artwork collection for Sea Eagle II (81m), a sailing yacht launched by Royal Huisman in summer 2020, and one of the 10 largest sailing yachts in the world. All the artworks commissioned were sustainable pieces, which was in line with the designer's focus on natural materials. Artworks included wooden sculptures carved from sustainably sourced wood, 3-dimensional wall art crafted from paper, and paintings that used natural pigments.

Bespoke Art Commission with Bespoke Sustainably Sourced Oak Frames

Sustainability for Luxury Hospitality

As modern, eco-conscious people travel the world, they seek hotels that are likewise committed to sustainability. Hoteliers and hospitality designers must respond to this demand, and while efforts to promote environmentally conscious operations like reducing washing or plastic waste are worthwhile, sustainability has to be a key concern from the initial stages of hotel design to be more deeply effective.

However, when considering the sheer scale of hotels and how hotel areas will be used, ensuring sustainability throughout the hotel poses more obstacles than in private spaces. Many materials, for example, need to be more hard-wearing: carpets that use synthetic fibres are easier to clean, and often need to be synthetic in order to comply with fire safety regulations. Meanwhile, while materials like marbles or metals can be used sparingly in private properties, they are simply not sustainable at the quantity required for hotels.

Wall feature commission using 100% natural organic paints and minerals for hotel lobby

For a hotel project to be truly sustainable, sustainability has to be a core consideration from the inception of the project. It has to be considered in everything from structural materials and utilising natural sun and ventilation, to being rigorous in sourcing reputable interior suppliers who prioritise sustainable production. In order to make sustainable hotel design more than simply tapping into a trend, new hotels have focus on longevity – much negative environmental impact comes from the waste of replacing worn-out features.

Considering this level of care to incorporate sustainability, it is essential that decorative aspects are not an afterthought to the project. After great effort has gone into sustainable design solutions, artworks can be overlooked, and in reality not be that sustainable. Whilst on an individual basis each artwork's sustainability may not be a major source for concern, together they can make a significant impact. If every room features artworks as well as the lobby, stairwells, and spa areas, irresponsible sourcing and using even small amounts of unsustainable materials can quickly add up. It is essential, therefore, to work coherently with specialist art consultants who are able to make sourcing sustainable art straightforward, and curate the entire collection for minimal environmental impact.

Sustainable carved wood headboard commission for boutique hotel

In addition, sustainable artworks bring many benefits to the hotel project. If a hotel decides to compromise on luxury materials in favour of sustainability, and opt for a more neutral, pared-back approach to interior design, the artwork can become the accent or focal point in the space. Sourcing art is further a great opportunity for supporting local artists, as artworks can be created from local materials and shipping costs are minimised. In addition, supporting sustainable artists also makes for an engaging way for the hotel to promote its values and reflect its context.

Sustainable Art: The Transformation of Materials

Ancient Craft

In many ways, artistic processes have long been sustainable. Traditional crafts, such as wood-carving, weaving and ceramics, were developed by ancient civilisations by utilising the naturally derived materials that they had to hand. Even when a raw material has to be manipulated as part of the process, such as spinning textiles into yarn or mixing pigments to create paints, these techniques are naturally low impact for their use of basic technology, and do not need electricity or complex machinery.

As such, many contemporary artists actively incorporate traditional techniques into their practice, becoming inheritors of ancient sustainable craft. These artists are pursuing sustainability as an inherent consideration within their work, and have been doing so for decades, rather than simply taking advantage of a design fad. The resulting artworks, however, do not look like basic artisanal crafts, and instead are examples of collectable, sophisticated fine art, and making them ideally suited to elegant interiors.

Willow Commission for Hotel – In Progress

As a result, many sustainably focused projects are drawn to such artists. In a recent project for a 5* hotel in Mayfair, London, Artelier has commissioned an artist to create a series of abstract wall installations created through willow weaving. The hotel project emphasises natural materials and sustainability, and so using an artist who revives the ancient craft of willow weaving was appealing.

The willow is sustainably harvested from Somerset, which has a naturally pale colour that complements the neutral palette of the hotel bedrooms. Each bedroom's feature artwork has a slight variation in design, with an organic, flowing composition. The artworks challenge preconceptions of willow weaving as being a rustic craft that is reserved for baskets; instead, the artworks showcase distinctly contemporary design that revives the ancient technique for a luxury hotel context.

Natural Materials

While some contemporary artists actively use ancient craft techniques, more broadly many artists authentically engage with sustainability through using exclusively natural materials. Taking humble and widespread materials such as wood, they are able to creatively transform them into fine art. The artworks communicate the natural beauty of earth’s resources, and deeply connect viewers with the environment by making them experience nature in new and surprising ways.