EU legislation and initiatives
Nov 30 2020 | CINOA

European Green Deal: Sustainable Products Initiative Public Consultation November 2020 – Art and Antiques are Green

The Art and Antiques Trade Should Be Recognized as a Green Sector

Established in 1935, CINOA is the principal international confederation of Art & Antique dealer associations representing more than 5,000 dealers. Affiliated dealers, from 30 leading dealer associations, cover a wide array of specialties from antiquities to contemporary art. CINOA’s associate member, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), represents an additional 22 associations. Our sector is increasingly fragile. In 2019, the current art market sector in the EU is estimated at 32% of global market but will be reduced due to Brexit to an estimated 12%[1].  This represented approximately EUR 6.8 billion in 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the European art market is expected to shrink further as 30% of businesses are expected to close permanently.

The majority of art galleries are considered micro enterprises and so are the connected professionals, such as artists or highly specialized firms, who act as intermediaries or service providers, such as fair booth designers, agents, restorers, photographers, shippers and insurers.  The benefits of a vibrant art community or event include direct revenue and employment in the sector and equally importantly, it generates second-round spending and employment in unrelated industries such as restaurants, hotels, transportation, etc. which can result in a better quality of life for local residents.

The reality that the world is a smaller place than we ever could imagine is becoming clearer as our planet begins to warm and weather events become more drastic. Whether or not anyone wishes to believe that the climate is changing, there is the philosophy of best practices, which essentially means conserving resources when possible. Very few people are unaware of this concept, but at the same time, very few people actually conform to this philosophy.

The art and antiques dealers in CINOA are an exception to this reality. Our business model relies on the restoration, rejuvenation and conservation of what already exists. There are both specific and general reasons why we do this. The specific reasons are historical and aesthetic in nature, but the general reason is because when people don’t see value in, for example, an old chair, it is likely that someone else will. In other words, one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure.

The furniture world is probably the most obvious trade where this is visible. Dealers will buy things that seem beyond redemption and put hours and hours into their rehabilitation. However, if the item is too far dilapidated, the dealer will re-use pieces in future restorations. Nothing is wasted. Indeed, furniture restorers and conservators use very little new timber preferring to salvage from those pieces that cannot be restored. The value of something old does not rest solely in its continued existence as it is a recyclable resource.

Most people are unaware of what can be done to revive something they may own. Paintings can be conserved, china, silver and glass as well. The reality is that there is probably enough of everything on this earth without newly designed or manufactured products. That may not fit in with the vast majority of people who like to buy “new”, but it is likely the truth. Unfortunately, we buy things without understanding the true cost of an item in terms of natural resources. We endanger plant and animal species in the pursuit of something new.

The desire for something new and different will soon have lots of caveats. CITES reassesses every two years the viability of the continued existence of plant and animal species.Their recommendations carry weight with governments around the world who put trading bans on environmentally limited resources. There has never been a better time than now to recognize the art and antiques trade as a unique source of green solutions which encompass materials from the past which are no longer available.

The art and antiques trade is keen to take part in this initiative.


[1] The Art Market Report 2020 by Dr Clare McAndrew page 47