LONDON — Move over, Zac Goldsmith — there’s a new gentleman ecologist in town.
David de Rothschild saw firsthand the results of climate change during his trek last year across the increasingly watery Arctic. Now he wants to sound a clarion call of the dangers ahead. But rather than get on his soapbox or publish a magazine, like Goldsmith, de Rothschild has chosen to inform by entertaining, and late last year opened an art gallery devoted to environmentally conscious works.
“Traditionally, there have been two camps in the environmental arena — the very aggressive lot and then the tofu-eating, beardy-weirdies,” says the lanky, longhaired de Rothschild, smirking at his own hip, hirsute appearance. “I want to avoid making environmental issues green and fluffy. They should be sexy and engaging.”
So de Rothschild has opened The Gallery @ Adventure Ecology on bustling Charing Cross Road here. Its first exhibition featured a series of cartoonish line drawings by artist Simon Harrison, who previously worked on “2000AD,” a British sci-fi comic. The drawings depicted characters such as Agent Waste, a mutant who’s at war with a band of Eco-Pirates, plastic dogs and hybrid humans and robots.
Beginning Jan. 19, the gallery will stage a group show, in conjunction with Charles Saatchi’s Your Gallery Web site, dubbed “Waste and the Natural World.” One artist, Samantha Cross, has set up an installation of 50 miniature plastic bags of water, each containing broken pieces of umbrellas — a reference to the accelerated melting of five polar ice caps over the past decade, the warmest period on record.
“It’s got to be quality work — it isn’t a free-for-all,” says the 28-year-old de Rothschild of his choice of artists. “This exhibition follows ‘The Simpsons’ [cartoon] model, in that it appeals to the serious collector, but it’s also approachable.”
The gallery at street level is a light, airy space (above are galleries owned by the photographer Rankin and the graffiti artist Banksy). In the building’s basement is a bunker-style “control room,” an educational center that supports the work de Rothschild does with his Adventure Ecology Web site, which he established in 2005. De Rothschild says the organization is working with schools from Australia and with the U.K.’s Department of Education on climate change awareness programs.
This story first appeared in the January 4, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
And the gallerist doesn’t doubt the part his storied name plays in getting such ambitious projects off the ground. “I think it definitely opens doors, but if you spend your life looking at doors, you’ve missed the point,” says de Rothschild, scion of the European banking family and a son of Evelyn de Rothschild and Victoria Schott. “The proof is in the pudding. I’m constantly getting e-mails from around the world with people saying, ‘We’re inspired by what you’re doing.'”
The art world seems to agree.
Pieces from the Harrison exhibitions have sold at the gallery for almost $4,000, and in February, Gabriel Orozco will be one of the artists accompanying Adventure Ecology’s next expedition to Ecuador to respond to the effects of the toxic wastewater that has been dumped in the rain forest there. In March, de Rothschild will exhibit works by British artists Alastair Mackie and Polly Morgan, who dabbles in avant-garde taxidermy.
“There’s a natural affinity between creatives and ecology,” says de Rothschild, who became involved in the eco-adventure movement in 2003 and has been a member of several Arctic expeditions. “It’s about thinking outside the box and observing. In a sense, artists have always been predicting the future.”