Artists Oppose BP Sponsorship at Tate Britain

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Activists poured oil-like liquid in front of London's Tate Britain Monday and sprinkled bird feathers over the slick to protest the gallery receiving corporate sponsorship from British Petroleum.

Black-clad protesters with veils over their heads splattered the entrance to the gallery with cans of treacle bearing the BP logo. Another group smuggled cans inside, under their skirts, and emptied them in Tate Britain’s columned main hall. The group goes by the name "The Good Crude Britannia" and was targeting the Tate's summer opening of a celebration of BP's 20 year sponsorship to voice their objection to the fact that the gallery continues to receive money from the corporation.

On Tate Britian's website, BP British Art Displays is listed as one of the gallery's long-term corporate sponsors. The company is also a longstanding sponsor of the British Museum, the Royal Opera House and the National Portrait Gallery. BP has said it will maintain those London sponsorships, which together come to more than $1.5 million a year, despite having lost half of its market value in the follow-up to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Picketing the party on Monday, artists yelled: “What do we want? Liberate Tate!” they hollered. “When do we want it? Now!”, Bloomberg reports.

There were only a few protestors, but over 150 artists had signed a letter to The Guardian last week, protesting the association. Spearheaded by an environmental art group called Platform, which fights for social and ecological justice, New York-based conceptual artist Hans Haacke, playwright Caryl Churchill, composer Matthew Herbert and comedian and writer Rob Newman were among the prominent people who signed the letter.

“We represent a cross-section of people from the arts community that believe that the BP logo represents a stain on Tate’s international reputation,” the letter read.

The Tate defended its tie-up with the oil company and said BP was "one of the most important sponsors of the arts in the UK", saying the support has been instrumental in developing the Tate Collection.

Speaking to Bloomberg News, Tate Director Nick Serota called offers of corporate funding “a very difficult decision for an institution to make,” adding: “There’s no money that is completely pure.”


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Comments [1]

shadeed ahmad from New York, New York

The approximately1.5 million total dollars that British Petroleum (BP) yearly donates to the National Portrait Gallery, The Tate Britain, The Royal Opera House and The British Museum is a travesty. It just goes to show the nominal respect that BP has for one of the principle building blocks of civilization (the arts). The art institutions of the world, no matter how exalted are treated as if they must be ever so grateful for crumbs from many corporations. Many of these corporations exploit the ability to get there names associated with venerable bastions of culture, but in reality only give frugal pittance to artistic institutions' survival. The glorious tributes to the human spirit that art institutions represent must always in essence thrive as if on emergency room life support. I'm sure this knowledge has driven certain artists to not hesitate about protesting London's Tate Britain acceptance of donations from the dastardly (and cheap) BP. Sincerely, Shadeed R. Ahmad (6-29-10)

Jun. 29 2010 04:59 PM

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