Media advisory: Tate to defend its BP secrecy in court, 11 May (hearing details)

* Art museum refusing to make public sponsorship details despite ending the deal with BP.[1]

* Hearing scheduled for 11 May 2016.

* British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and Royal Opera House believed to be reconsidering their sponsorship deals with BP by the end of 2016, as new report details BP’s interference in museums’ curation, events, and security procedures.

Contact: Anna Galkina, Platform / @platformlondon / anna@platformlondon.org 

Tate is to appear at the Information Tribunal in May, over refusal to reveal sponsorship fees BP paid to Tate between 2007-2011. London arts group Platform, represented by law firm Leigh Day and Monckton Chambers, and supported by information rights group Request Initiative, are taking the appeal forward.

The hearing is open to the public and press. Full details:
10am 11th May 2016
Court H, Residential Property Tribunal,
10 Alfred Place, London WC1E 7LR

Please contact Anna Galkina on anna@platformlondon.org to receive updates of any changes to the hearing.

Tate will give evidence at the Tribunal, as well as Request Initiative and the Information Commissioner.Tate was previously forced to reveal that BP fees accounted for under 0.5% of Tate’s budget between 1990-2006 (£150,000-£330,000 a year).[2] In its judgment the Information Tribunal made clear that Tate should disclose historic sponsorship figures. In the current case, Tate is refusing to disclose the figures for 2007 to 2011 and citing “commercial confidentiality”, despite the fact that they are now also historic.[3]
Documents released last year showed that Tate’s Ethics Committee believed “the reputational risk to Tate of retaining BP as a partner [was] significant”. But before the Tribunal, Tate’s lawyers argued that disclosure would offend BP, and also lead to further protests, posing a “health and safety risk”. The Information Tribunal rejected these arguments.

Platform’s Anna Galkina said,

“As Tate’s deal with BP ends, the oil company can no longer use Tate’s spectacular displays to distract the public from its destructive business. The public still has a right to know how much BP’s paid Tate for this transfer of public trust. And the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and Royal Opera House should join Tate in breaking free from oil branding.”

Newly released internal emails from three of the institutions show how as a sponsor BP interfered in the running of its sponsored museums. The revelations, published in a report by the Art Not Oil coalition,[4] include BP hosting security trainings for senior staff, and being given curatorial influence over displays and events.

Brendan Montague of Request Initiative said,“BP gets huge recognition from branding some of Britain’s finest art with its logo. But it is the taxpayer who foots most of the bill for the gallery – and the public should be informed through the FOIA how much BP is paying the gallery for its sponsorship.”

Lord Browne, who worked in BP for most of his career and was CEO of the company for 12 years, is Tate’s Chair of Trustees. His term as a Trustee is also due to end in 2017.

Solicitor Rosa Curling of Leigh Day said,“It is clearly in the public interest for Tate to disclose details about its 2007-2011 sponsorship deal with BP. Tate has previously tried to prevent details about its sponsorship deals becoming public, and the Information Tribunal found this to be unlawful. It is regrettable that Tate does not seem to have learnt from its mistakes in past and again,at public and its membership expense, is forcing our client to seek intervention from the Information Tribunal.”

British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery both previously voluntarily disclosed recent or current amounts that BP paid them as sponsor [5].

Notes

[1] The end of the sponsorship relationship was announced in March via an article in the Independent. According to a BP spokesperson, the decision to end the sponsorship was taken by BP, due to “challenging business environment”.

[2] http://platformlondon.org/p-pressreleases/tate-forced-to-reveal-bp-sponsorship-details/

[3] The previous Tribunal considered that the 2006-2011 figures were sufficiently recent at the time they were originally requested – in 2012 – that their release could have harmed Tate’s commercial interests. Campaigners argue that in 2015 (and now in 2016), these figures are no more likely to harm Tate’s interests than the figures from 2006. This accords with the reasoning of the Tribunal in its judgment where it drew a distinction between: (a) current and recent figures (assessed as at the time of the request; and (b) historic figures.

 

[4] http://www.artnotoil.org.uk/sites/default/files/BPs%20Corrupting%20Influence.pdf.pdf
[5] The National Portrait Gallery disclosed the fees for an ongoing BP sponsorship deal (£1.25m over five years) in response to a FOI request in 2008.
British Museum disclosed BP sponsorship fees up to 2011 in response to a FOI request in 2015.