Fine Art Goes Green

While the art world has long supported progressive policies and environmental awareness (think of the impact of an Ansel Adams, just for example), the proverbial canvas used in the art world–everything from the paper to the frame–has often lacked good eco-alternatives. Hahnemuhle, an art supply company based in Germany, has developed a bamboo/sugar cane fiber alternative that replaces the ultra-fine paper required by many artists and galleries, and their product is being used to showcase environmentally themed works by many painters and artists concerned with environmental issues.

The online art gallery uGallery has made a point of promoting the sustainable paper to its customers and artists. From the uGallery website, pictured at left is the work of Sarah Beth Goncarova, who traveled to Iceland and literally sat watching glaciers break off and melt into the sea, painting them at various stages throughout the day. Other artists using the paper include Katherine Widen, who profiles “Nuclear landscapes” areas that people have decimated and left without much reclamation.

The cost of the eco-friendly paper is not much more than that of traditional fine art paper made from renewable but not recycled or necessarily sustainably harvested resources, making most art pieces affordable.

According to Hahnemuhle, “All of our archival pigment prints are produced on the world’s first eco-friendly fine art paper – a smooth textured, natural white bamboo paper. Bamboo is a highly-renewable fiber and our bamboo is harvested in ethically responsible forests and sustainably manufactured.  Bamboo requires no fertilizers or insecticides. It needs very little water to grow, which means it can thrive without depleting water supplies. Bamboo is biodegradable, renewable, and fast growing. Our paper is made of 90% bamboo fibres and 10% cotton, and is OBA-free.”

Hahnemuhle also donates a portion of sales to environmental projects.


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Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

One response

  1. As a former owner of a fine art reproduction business and current sustainable MBA candidate at Presidio Graduate School, I have to say that while agree that Hahnemuhle Bamboo is a fantastic paper and offers much more in the way of sustainability benefits than many other fine art papers out there, this can hardly be classified as “green art”. Greener, maybe. Between the environmental footprint of the hardware involved in digital art to the highly toxic solvents used in the inkjet inks, using a slightly more sustainable paper is basically a drop in the bucket. Don’t get me wrong – I have used countless rolls of this and other Hahnemuhle papers and I would highly recommend them to my clients. However, I was always on the lookout for ways to make my business more environmentally friendly, and I continuously came up short when looking for something that would offer more than “greenwashing”, which is basically what the Bamboo amounts to. While I think it is great to highlight the work of artists that are trying to draw attention to our great environmental problems through their artwork, your post leaves me wanting much more. There is much to be explored within the realm of “green art”, and this barely scratches the surface. Unless you’re getting a marketing fee from Hahnemuhle or uGallery, I am not really sure what you are telling us here. I am sorry for being so critical, but these are two areas that I happen to know quite a lot about. I encourage you to look deeper into this, and I would be very interested to know what you find.

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