Leaked invite reveals Tate’s ill-timed plans to celebrate BP sponsorship

24 Jun 2010 admin

Artists to protest Tate Britain Summer Party; Art/activist group Platform release briefing on oil sponsorship of the arts

Embargo: 00.01 AM, Friday 25 June 2010

Tate is throwing a gala event in order to celebrate 20 years of BP sponsorship next week, a leaked invitation seen by campaign group Platform reveals [1].

The party comes at a time when BP’s battered reputation as a result of the Gulf of Mexico spill is creating a public relations disaster for Tate through its association with the oil company [2].

A group of artists calling themselves The Good Crude Britannia, who want Tate to cut its ties with BP, will picket Monday night’s event [3]. Artists have also come together to speak out against oil industry sponsorship of the arts in “Licence to Spill”, a new briefing being launched by Platform today [4].

These developments come amid signs that BP sponsorship is a growing source of controversy amongst Tate trustees and staff. Tate’s five-year sponsorship deal with BP is up for renewal in spring 2011, and sources within Tate have suggested that the controversial issue of BP’s sponsorship will be on the agenda for the first time at the upcoming trustees’ meeting in July.

In recent weeks there has been an unprecedented wave of public actions against oil industry sponsorship of the arts. Last month, Liberate Tate disrupted Tate Modern’s 10th anniversary celebrations. This week, Rising Tide and Art Not Oil targeted the BP Portrait Award ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery and Greenpeace mounted an alternative exhibition to coincide with the private view [5].

Jane Trowell of Platform said: “BP is trying to repair its tarnished reputation and buy our approval by associating itself with culturally important institutions like Tate. The financial support provided by BP creates a perception of it being a cuddly corporate entity, and aims to distract us from the devastating environmental and social impacts of its global operations. Public outrage over the Deepwater Horizon spill is creating a moment for change. We hope that, as happened with the tobacco industry, it will soon come to be seen as socially unacceptable for cultural institutions to accept funding from Big Oil”.

Electronic artist and composer Matthew Herbert said: “It is absurd that Tate should be sponsored by a company that is as irresponsible and polluting as BP. Day one of any critical art theory course would dissect the logo of BP and show it to be the most cynical and barefaced piece of modern visual corporate propaganda. Why is Tate so keen to have it attached to its proud collection of modern art? At a time when urgent action is required to slow consumption of fossil fuels, oil companies should not be allowed to advertise or sponsor anything at all. It’s time to cut the oily tentacles that BP and Shell have wrapped around our most prestigious cultural institutions”.

The new Platform briefing brings together artists’ statements about oil industry sponsorship and provides a critique of its cultural, political and environmental impacts.


For interviews and more information:

Platform: 0207 403 3738 or 07790 430 620 / [email protected]
We can put you in touch with artists quoted in the Licence to Spill briefing.


1. The invitation can be seen at:

2. The 20-year relationship between Tate and BP has seen increasingly close ties develop between the gallery and BP. Ex-BP Chief Executive Lord John Browne is currently the chair of the Tate board of trustees.

3. The Good Crude Britannia is a national artists’ campaign against BP sponsorship of Tate. We are calling all concerned artists to either sign the petition and/or support the ‘campaign’ which is to be launched on Monday 28th June 2010 at Tate Britain’s Summer Party, 7-9pm.!/group.php?gid=126083700763469

4. The briefing is available at:

Platform works across disciplines for social and ecological justice. It combines the transformatory power of art with the tangible goals of campaigning, the rigour of in-depth research with the vision to promote alternative futures.

5. See:
Liberate Tate:
Video of the action:

Rising Tide:
Video of the action:

Art Not Oil:

Focus Areas