Artists and environmentalists have reacted angrily to an announcement this morning that BP will be pledging £10m over the next five years to sponsor the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and Tate Britain.
The announcement from BP comes at a time when the sponsorship arrangements between oil companies and cultural institutions, in particular between BP and Tate, has become increasingly controversial. Earlier this month Tate head Nicholas Serota was handed a petition with more than 8,000 signatures from Tate members and visitors at the Tate members AGM calling on Tate to end its relationship with BP, while Tate Trustee Patrick Brill (aka Bob and Roberta Smith) was quoted as calling BP “a disgrace”.
Chris Sands, from art-activists Liberate Tate, who have carried out a number of unsolicited performance interventions in Tate spaces over BP-sponsorship said:
“Tate Board of Trustees should make the decision to refuse this dirty oil money. For too long the art museum has supported BP against the demonstrable wishes of so many thousands of Tate members and visitors as well as hundreds of artists. It is now up to the Tate governing body to demonstrate 21st century leadership and act on growing public concern by ending Tate’s relationship with BP not renewing it. Only by breaking its links with BP will the Tate Board be acting in the best interests of Tate and the arts as well as affected communities, future generations and the world we live in.”
Kevin Smith from the art-campaign group Platform, and one of the editors of the recent publication, ‘Not if but when, Culture Beyond Oil’ said,
“By aligning themselves with BP, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and Tate Britain are legitimising the devastation of indigenous communities in Canada through tar sands extraction, the expansion of dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic, and the reckless business practices that lead to the deaths of 11 oil workers on the Deepwater Horizon. BP’s involvement with these institutions represents a serious stain on the UK’s cultural patrimony.”
At the Tate Members AGM on 2 December, Nicholas Serota announced that the decision over BP sponsorship was to be taken “quite soon” by Tate Trustees.
Kevin Smith of Platform said: “We need to have clarity from Nicholas Serota about if this announcement is being made before the decision that he said Tate trustees would be making over BP sponsorship, or whether this decision is still going to be made. Part of the problem here is that public institutions are not being very transparent over controversial decisions in which there is a clear public interest.”
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Notes to the editor
Patrick Brill quote – Tate trustee reignites BP row ahead of Turner Prize