by , Transition Free Press: http://transitionfreepress.org/2014/09/27/art-oil-sponsorship/
London prepared to host the People’s Climate March on the morning of
21st September, a group of ‘BP or not BP?’ activists recreated the
Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster at the British Museum.
Their surprise theatre performance,
entitled “Gross Negligence”, was to challenge BP’s sponsorship of the
Museum and highlight the comments of a US judge who recently decided
that BP bore 67% of responsibility for the disaster.
BP or not BP are part of the Art Not Oil Coalition, along
with groups like Platform London, Shell Out Sounds and Liberate Tate.
the current issue of Transition Free Press, Tara Clarke outlines their
call for cultural organisations to reject funding from fossil fuel
To mark the publication of Platform London’s recent report, Picture This - A Portrait of 25 Years of BP Sponsorship,
25 performers smeared oil on their faces and stood as exhibits around
the National Portrait Gallery to represent 25 environmental catastrophes
associated with the company since the BP Portrait Award began in 1989.
“How bad does a company have to be before an arts organisation
refuses to be associated with it or take its money?” Platform London’s
June publication asked as it detailed BP’s relationship with the
National Portrait Award. “The association with BP is deeply problematic
and unethical, and in effect endorses climate change,” says Jane Trowell
from the arts activist group.
The discontent around the Portrait Award is part of a wider movement
to delegitimise the fossil fuel industry. In June, 200 ‘Vikings’ from
the performance group BP or not BP? invaded London’s British Museum to
protest at BP’s sponsorship of an exhibition about the Scandinavian
warriors. BP or not BP? are also targeting the oil giant’s relationship
with the Tate galleries and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Gross Negligence from rikki on Vimeo.
Radical choir Shell Out Sounds, who’ve conducted numerous choral
‘flashmobs’ during concert intervals at the Southbank Centre, have been
celebrating the venue’s announcement that its sponsorship relationship
with Shell is to end.
“It’s clear that our actions, as part of a long-running campaign, had
created the ethical shift we had long been hoping for, where Shell no
longer gains respectability by nestling its name next to concerts with
some of the world’s best musicians,” says Chris Garrard from the group.
“Music and art are incredibly powerful tools for challenging greenwash
and the fossil fuel industry.”
These creative activist groups, along with others such as Liberate
Tate and the UK Tar Sands Network, are part of the Art Not Oil Coalition
who have been mobilising against oil company sponsorship of cultural
institutions since 2004.
One of the most recent members, Science
Unstained, has been highlighting the fact that Shell have sponsored the
Science Museum’s permanent climate change exhibition since 2010.
The Art Not Oil Coalition
argues that public museums are acting as a public relations vehicle for
According to research by Platform London, fossil fuel
sponsorship constitutes a minimal proportion of cultural institutions’
total budgets, compared to the social value companies such as BP and
Shell extract from having their logo associated with Britain’s top
artists and performers.
In the case of the National Portrait Gallery,
BP’s sponsorship money represents 2.9% of the Gallery’s total income -
for the British Museum it is under 1%.
The National Portrait Gallery, British Museum, Tate Britain and the
Royal Opera House have a five year sponsorship deal with BP, which is
due for renewal in 2016. The stage seems set for more artistic activism.
Tara Clarke is a climate change activist and member of Science
Unstained. She is Programme Delivery Officer at Science Oxford and is
studying for an MA in Science Communication at Imperial College.