Monday, January 2, 2012


BP to give £10m to four UK arts institutions
As protests against the energy company’s arts sponsorship grow, museums and the minister of culture support BP's latest funding

By Martin Bailey. Web only
Published online: 19 December 2011

BP has announced a £10m sponsorship deal with four major London arts institutions—the British Museum, Tate Britain, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Opera House. The five-year arrangement will run until 2017, continuing support, which in most cases dates back for two decades.

At the British Museum, sponsorship will be mainly for exhibitions, such “Vikings” in 2014. The National Portrait Gallery will continue to receive backing for its BP Portrait Award. At Tate Britain, the money will be mainly for displays, including a 2013 rehang after the building’s renovation is completed.

Separately, BP is a major corporate sponsor of the Cultural Olympiad’s London 2012 Festival.

BP’s support for the arts has been attacked by environmentalists, primarily because of the 2010 oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico. In November 2011, a Tate trustee Patrick Brill (who works as an artist as Bob and Roberta Smith), criticised the company, saying that “BP is a disgrace”. He also revealed that a fellow trustee, the London-based German artist Wolfgang Tillmans, had raised the issue on the Tate board.

Tate’s ethics committee has considered the issue and redacted minutes of its 6 May 2010 meeting have been released under the Freedom of Information Act. The committee recommended “the continuation of the current relationship with BP, given that there was no evidence to suggest that the acceptance of funds from BP would significantly damage the effective operation of Tate”. Since then, however, protests from three groups—Liberate Tate, Platform and Art Not Oil—have escalated.

BP’s managing director, Iain Conn, says that his company wants to contribute to the wider community, supporting “exhibitions and performances, promoting ideas and encouraging creativity.”

Having accepted an invitation to the 19 December sponsorship launch, the UK’s culture minister, Ed Vaizey, says that “BP has led the way in business support for the arts, and I am delighted that this will continue.”

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