Melting Arctic Sea ice is opening a channel known as 'The Polar Silk Road'. Paired with opportunities for trade and access to oil and gas extraction, conflicts are already beginning to arise over ownership and access to this newfound treasure. Gregor Sailer's new exhibition opening at the Natural History Museum
from 26 May 2023, documents our complex relationship with the environment, the wide-reaching impacts of climate change and a rapidly changing world.
In his UK debut, acclaimed Austrian artist and photographer Gregor Sailer showcases 67 images of manmade structures captured across four countries in the Arctic circle. From isolated research centres to Icelandic geothermal power stations, Gregor documents the changes taking place across the Arctic as people increasingly build on, exploit and research it.
Artist and photographer Gregor Sailer says; 'Global warming and its impacts in the Arctic is a topical issue that affects us all, even if it is geographically far away.
'This northern-most region of the world has been profoundly affected by the climate crisis, making scientific research there more urgent.
North Warning System III, Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Canada, 2020 © Gregor Sailer
'Through collaboration with the Natural History Museum, I hope my work helps to translate this discussion, which is geopolitically, scientifically and socially very complex, not only in terms of content, but also visually.'
Five countries border the Arctic Ocean, and three maritime routes allow a crossing of the Arctic Ocean, depending on the season and the extent of the ice cover. The melting of the sea ice is set to create a shorter trade route in the future, providing access to new raw material deposits (natural gas and oil).
As temperatures rise in the Arctic; animals, plants, and indigenous communities become increasingly under threat with wider impacts on a global level. Natural History Museum scientists are conducting important research into humanity's impact in this region.
Natural History Museum Director of Public Programmes Alex Burch says; 'We are thrilled to announce a breathtaking new exhibition of work by photographer Gregor Sailer. This display prompts us to not only think about how climate change is affecting the Arctic but also the worldwide impacts that can be observed across the globe.
Barracks I, Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland, 2019 © Gregor Sailer
The Museum is working to help build our understanding of what this might mean for biodiversity, and we hope that by bringing together art and science, this exhibition can transport and inspire people to become advocates for our planet.'
The Polar Silk Road is at the Natural History Museum's Jerwood Gallery from 26 May 2023 with entry free of charge. The exhibition is supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum London and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport. The Polar Silk Road is the second in a series of art installations in the Natural History Museum's Jerwood Gallery. The exhibition proceeds The Lost Rhino an installation curated by artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg which closes on 19 March 2023.
EastGRIP I, Northeast Greenland Ice Sheet, Ice Core Project, 2019 © Gregor Sailer
Gregor Sailer (born 1980) is a photographer working in the fields of art and architecture. His work explores how buildings and structures can represent economic, political and social ideas, and he often creates images in remote or hard to access locations.
Sailer’s works have won multiple awards and have been shown nationally and internationally in solo and group exhibitions, including in New York, Arles, Milan, Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Budapest. Many of his photo series have been published as photo books, most recently The Polar Silk Road, The Box and Unseen Places. He lives and works in Tyrol, Austria, and this is the first time his photographs have been shown in the UK.
EastGRIP XX, Northeast Greenland Ice Sheet, Ice Core Project, 2019 © Gregor Sailer
Krafla Geothermal Power Station VII, Iceland, 2021 © Gregor Sailer