Few people will think about sustainability when admiring the work of an old master in a museum.

In the past, many colors and vapors were harmful or highly toxic, the extraction of raw materials was dangerous and the working and living conditions were often poor.

On the plus side, the CO2 balance of trips back then was completely different and canvas or wood were used several times, if only for cost reasons.

However, it is particularly lasting that such a painting has survived at all and can still be admired by art lovers today.

Kerstin Papon

Editor in Business.

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Nevertheless, the omnipresent topic of sustainability is increasingly finding its way into the market for paintings, sculptures and other works of art.

Many collectors worry about the carbon footprint of the art market.

The vast majority seem willing to pay a premium for more sustainable collection options in order to mitigate the impact of their actions or purchases on the environment.

At least that is the result of a survey conducted by the Art Basel art fair together with the Swiss bank UBS among more than 2,700 very wealthy art collectors around the world.

The eleven key markets examined include the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and Brazil.

According to the analysis, the majority of respondents (57 percent) would pay up to 25 percent more for a work of art for more sustainability.

In 2019, 45 percent said so.

Almost everyone would accept a surcharge of 5 percent on the purchase price.

Overall, the issue of sustainability is therefore one of the greatest concerns of collectors, with a share of 28 percent it is in fourth place.

When it comes to the art market, however, respondents are most concerned about increasing regulation and identification requirements (46 percent), legal issues (40 percent) and restrictions on international trade (33 percent).

Higher prices for more sustainability

The concerns have concrete consequences: more than three quarters (77 percent) of those surveyed are considering more sustainable options for their art activities.

In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, only 62 percent said so.

In addition to paying a higher price, a large majority of these art lovers see it as essential to engage in a range of sustainable practices over the next two years.

The use of exclusively digital catalogues, analyzes and other information instead of printed matter and the purchase of sustainably produced art are mentioned particularly frequently.

Important aspects are also the use of reusable or recycled shipping materials and the transport itself - less, bundled, the preference of land transport over air.