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Course leader Amy Mechowski explores critical questions facing the art world today by considering how museum and gallery professionals are applying innovative thinking to address issues of social responsibility.

In Spring 2023, a new suite of courses comes to Sotheby’s Institute Professional Courses in London. The Art & Social Responsibility course takes an interdisciplinary approach and focuses on the responsibility that the art world holds for both social movements and environmental issues. It introduces students to professional ‘best practice’ whilst opening up questions around the prospects and limitations faced by the art world as an ecosystem in its own right. Here, course leader Amy Mechowski, shares the five key reasons why social responsibility is relevant and necessary in the art world:

  • Individuals, companies, organisations, and public institutions in the art world all need to maximise their efficiency, productivity, and value – but crucially, they need to do so in a way that benefits society and lessens any potential negative impact of their activities. This means working in a socially responsible way.
  • To work with social responsibility, museum and gallery professionals are developing new strategies and applying innovative thinking to engage with contested notions of culture, identity, diversity, social justice, and climate change. As arts professionals, we need to stay at the forefront of this response.
  • These developments are often related to new relationships between conventional and digital environments in the field of Art Logistics – managing works of art as well as the spaces and collections in which they are circulated and displayed – a core component of all art business and management.
  • The ‘lifecycle’ of a work of art involves new technologies, pioneering approaches to operations, as well as expert knowledge of legal and ethical issues. This applies equally to commercial business ventures and public institutions, as they respond to the pressures and imperatives that demand agility and responsiveness in a changing landscape.
  • Today - a basic, yet comprehensive foundation in social responsibility is an absolute necessity for anyone who wants to pursue or develop a career in the international art world – equipped with the knowledge and understanding to tackle the commercial, logistical, and systemic impact on the art eco-system of acting with social responsibility.

Social responsibility and art logistics are inherently connected by issues of accountability, these include:

  • Economic (business planning with efficiency, resilience, fair trade, and profitability/sustainability)
  • Legal (adherence to rules, regulations, policies, procedures and ‘best practice’)
  • Ethical (acting responsibly and in the interests of general welfare, when not required by legalities, etc)
  • Philanthropy (making a non-obligatory contribution to society and social projects, even when independent of business activities and/or non-essential to day-to-day operations)
  • Environment (conserving natural resources and reducing negative environmental impact, taking action to facilitate environmentally conscious and sustainable activities)
  • Human Rights (redressing imbalance and social injustice through a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion)