Tate forced to reveal BP sponsorship details after 3-year legal battle

Press Release 26 Jan 2015 anna
Liberate Tate's 'Hidden Figures' performance in the Turbine Hall. Credit: Martin LeSanto-Smith
Liberate Tate’s ‘Hidden Figures’ performance in the Turbine Hall. Credit: Martin LeSanto-Smith

Press release: Tate forced to reveal BP sponsorship details after 3-year legal battle

Contact: Anna Galkina / [email protected] / @platformlondon

Tate galleries have been forced to disclose the financial sums of the controversial BP sponsorship deal and minutes of internal decision making over the sponsorship, following a 3-year-long Freedom of Information appeals process by Platform, Request Initiative, law firm Leigh Day and Monckton Chambers. The financial sums as disclosed range from £150,000 a year between 1991-2000 to £330,000 a year in 2002-2007. They represent around 0.5% of Tate’s overall operational income during the overall period, and since 2000, less than 1% of Tate’s self-generated income (i.e. donations, sales and sponsorship).

Anna Galkina of campaign group Platform said,

“The BP sponsorship figures are even lower than we had estimated. For nearly a decade, Tate provided a veneer of respectability to one of the world’s most controversial companies for just £150,000 a year! The figures are embarrassingly small for Tate to go on justifying its BP relationship. BP desperately needs the ‘social licence’ provided by cultural sponsorship in order to continue trashing our climate. But Tate can clearly do without BP. A growing wave of universities, faith and government institutions are choosing to divest and break ties with the fossil fuel industry – it’s time for Tate to join them!”

Tate renewed BP’s sponsorship contract for five years in 2011. Director Nicholas Serota commented during BP’s Deepwater Horison spill, “you don’t abandon your friends because they have what we consider to be a temporary difficulty.” The newly revealed minutes of Tate’s Ethics Committee, which reviewed BP sponsorship in 2010, show some scrutiny of BP’s tar sands projects as well as of legal cases against BP as a result of the Deepwater Horizon spill. The minutes state:

“Tate has taken a public stance on sustainability and is arguably the cultural institution most in the public eye in the UK. In light of this the reputational risk to Tate of retaining BP as a partner is significant.”

But the Ethics Committee concluded that “taking a moral stance on the ethics of the Oil and Gas sector … is outside of Tate’s charitable objectives”.

In 2012 BP publicly declared it was providing £10 million over five years to four cultural institutions including Tate, which if split equally would provide Tate with £500 thousand a year. The Information Tribunal ruling criticised Tate’s “protracted, misguided reliance on [an irrelevant] document”, as well as “mistaken” and “somewhat fanciful” use of Freedom of Information exemptions over details of internal decision-making.

Rosa Curling, solicitor of Leigh Day who has been working on the case, said:

“Tate has fought and no doubt spent a large amount of money trying to keep this information secret. If cultural institutions such as Tate are accepting sponsorship money from corporations such as BP, they must be open about how much they are receiving. Tate’s actions have prevented proper public debate over the acceptability of the sponsorship, based on actual figures, for over three years.

“We hope that Tate will now change its approach and act in a more open and transparent manner about corporate sponsorship from now on.”

On 29 January, ‘Take The Money And Run?’ – a groundbreaking conference for arts professionals, activists, and researchers will address the larger questions on art, ethics, and funding. Take The Money And Run? is organised by Artsadmin, Home Live Art, and Live Art Development Agency in collaboration with Platform.



1) The information revealed by Tate can be downloaded here and data on Tate’s operational income 1990-2014 for comparison here.

2) The Information Tribunal ruling in full is online at,%20Brendan%20&%20Tate%20Gallery%20EA.2014.0040,%200070%20&%200071%20%2822.12.2014%29.pdf

3) Images of ‘Hidden Figures’ performance by art collective Liberate Tate responding to the Freedom of Information appeals can be found at

4) More information and registration for Take The Money And Run?:

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