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Unique Approaches to Ecological Art: Works by Conrado Zanotto.

The Ecological Factor

The art world is increasingly changing, and collectors are looking into alternative types of content in the art they buy. We also see an exponential growth of collectors with a strong orientation toward preservation, ecology and social issues who transform their homes into sustainable housing solutions in which even interior objects and artworks are committed to the cause.

These truly engaged collectors require galleries to rethink ideas of transparency, flexibility, diversity, and sustainability. And they are turned off by some ingrained practices of the art market, such as elitism and exclusivity (think of the velvet rope outside a vernissage). All in all, they prefer to avoid pretentious vernissages and blockbuster museum exhibitions, and love art initiatives and institutions which address pressing matters such as the global urgency with respect to climate change, animal world’s welfare, pollution and other ESG related topics.

If you identify with these strands of collectors and art lovers, you most certainly will find artworks by Conrado Zanotto of interest.


Did you know that each 1 kilo of incorrectly discarded medicines contaminates 450,000 litres of water?

Well, if you did not and 1) you think that artistic production should address this type of problem and 2) you would feel better about yourself by buying art engaging in water conservation, then Zanotto’s MEDICINE SERIES is perfect for you!

The Medicine Series is composed of 21 artworks created with expired pills and blisters, and through this gesture artist Conrado Zanotto has used 90.7 grams of disposable medicines and left 40,815 litres of water uncontaminated!!

As per a study released in 2019 in the journal Scientific American, the concentration of antibiotics in some rivers around the world exceeds safety limits by up to 300 times. Samples from more than 70 rivers, in the six continents of the world, were analysed and the alarming result was that 65% of the examined areas present contamination by antibiotics (Source: ‘Eco Response’). Artists and collectors engaging with sustainability and climate change are creating and acquiring artworks that not only do not pollute, but are also contributing to the making of a better Planet!

Presented as mini sculptures, Zanotto’s Medicine Series challenges the pervasive power of the pharmaceutical industry, criticizing both the exacerbated use of drugs in humans and animals, and the growing normalization of drugs consumption by children. As a conscious Brazilian artist, Zanotto is aware that, in his Country, approximately 14,000 tons of medicines lose their shelf life per year, most of which are disposed of in an environmentally incorrect way, in the common rubbish, in the sewer or in the soil.


Books are objects that gather information in the form of signs, signals and symbols, a record of time that stores memories. They are fundamental and ancestral tools used by humanity to grow culturally. The concentration of information on each page of a book represents history and is an endless source of knowledge. And, of course, books are made of sheets that are made out of paper, produced from cellulose, and taken from trees, which in turn came from Nature.

THE FOREST BOOK is an artwork that comes as a deconstructed kit and asks for the participation of the collector, who is required to assembly all the constituent parts of the work itself: cut book, whole white clay, black clay in pieces, seed paper, moss, fertile soil and liquid fertilizer.

The pages of the book that constitute the ‘DIY artwork’ were cut and re-signified into booklets that partially preserve the book's content. The reason for the cutting is to transform the book into a container to be filled with soil and seeds.

Parts of the book cut-offs were used by the artist in the manufacturing of seed paper sheets (sheets in which plant seeds are embedded and that will germinate once the paper is put into the soil and watered). The clay supplied has a structuring function as a water-binding element, which will help keep the book's leaves and soil moist. The soil supplied in the kit comes from the composting of organic waste, as well as liquid fertilizer, providing fertility to the system.

The interaction with the collector that Conrado Zanotto conjures up with this work suggests the integration between man and Nature. The person who plants the seed paper sheets commits himself to the development of a 'being', observes life, and formulates an environment, aware that one day the plant will extrapolate the physical limits of the book, and will demand to return to nature so to become a tree again.

THE FOREST BOOK: Instructions for assembly and care

  • Acquire a FOREST BOOK by Conrado Zanotto. You will receive a box containing the kit through which you will build the artwork at home, feed it and see it develop and flourish through your care.

  • Open the book in an airy, well-lit place, with sunlight exposure over parts of the day and preferably where it can be wet frequently.

  • Prepare the white clay (1) by kneading the clay to make it malleable.

  • Position the white clay around the book cut to create a border. Wait for it to dry.

  • Spread the ground black clay (2) on the bottom of the book.

  • Place the fertile soil (3) mixed with the liquid fertilizer (6).

  • Plant the seed paper (4) approximately 2 cm into the soil.

  • Water regularly, on average once a day.

  • Do not forget to emanate good intentions and thoughts when you are taking care of your plant, talking to it is a good attitude that collaborates with its growth; the artist has told us.

  • As they develop, the plants will become more and more integrated with the book which supports them. When you feel that this integration has reached its peak, plant the book so that the plant can develop completely and integrate itself back into Nature.


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