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  1. Wealth
July 1, 2009


By Spear's

There are only so many pictures of polar bears on melting icebergs that one can take. Happily, the GSK exhibition on climate change is different.

To the John Madejski Fine Rooms at the Royal Academy this morning for the press launch of the next instalment of the GSK Contemporary exhibition this Christmas (yes, quite previous, I know, but it’s always good to have advance notice) in 6 Burlington Gardens.

This year the theme of the show, featuring the work of over 40 artists from around the world, is climate change, which – given the persistence of land-, sea- and sky-scapes throughout art history – seems entirely appropriate. Earth: Art of a changing world, which runs from 3rd December this year to 31st January next, will tackle all aspects of how humans affect the world they inhabit, from destruction to hope.

The key promise from Kathleen Soriano, the director of exhibitions who is assembling the show from scratch in just a year, is that it ‘wouldn’t preach and wouldn’t admonish’, which is good news, as there are only so many pictures of polar bears on melting icebergs that one can take before wanting to go hunting.

When I asked Charles Saumarez Smith, the secretary of the RA, whether this focus on the green might be seen as tendentious or even propagandistic by certain sectors of the media, he said it was about creating a debate: ‘We maybe haven’t done so much on the debating side. If there’s a debate, if Nigel Lawson has a placard outside Burlington Gardens saying global warming is good, that’s not a bad thing for the exhibition.’

The show is sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline (hence GSK, duh) and their Responsibility arm, whose head Dr Justine Frain was there too, shedding a lot of light on the different projects GSK sponsors, from homelessness to the environment to Aids and malaria.

One of the most exciting aspects of the show is a tie-up with Sketch on Conduit St, which is cementing its position in the London arts scene. Sketch will take space in 6 Burlington Gardens. There will also be a National Trust tie-up for a site-specific work.

If your appetite has been whetted, then start marking off your calendars – December is not that far away. Although, on second thoughts, there’s still a little more time for a pina colada before then.

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Learn more about the exhibition and buy tickets now at

Top image: Mona Hatoum, Hot Spot, 2006, Mixed media. Stainless steel and neon tube, 234 x 223 cm, David Roberts Collection, London

Bottom image: Edward Burtynsky, Super Pit #4, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, 2007, Chromogenic Colour Print © The artist, courtesy Flowers, London

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