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BP sponsorship provokes Tate Member resignations at AGM

This was originally published on the Platform blog.

As Christmas approaches, there's a lot of Tate social media suggesting that you give the gift of Tate membership to your loved ones this year. But there are a number of Tate members who feel that membership means “just pay your fees and don’t ask questions.” The annual Tate Members AGM looks set to be dominated again by the controversial Tate-BP relationship as a number of members are planning on publicly resigning. The resignations come after a larger group of Tate members attempted to raise the issue at the AGM last year, and sent letters to the Member’s Council, but were rebuffed by the council who took five months to respond to say that they were unable to engage with the members’ concerns.

Tate receives approximately £5 million a year through its membership scheme – the largest such scheme in Europe. At the end of 2011, BP announced a £10 million sponsorship scheme for four arts institutions, including Tate, over five years, which would average out at £500,000 a year – a tenth of the membership revenue.
 
The various members resigning have prepared statements. One of them from Jamie Kelsey-Fry and Sunniva Taylor reads:
Although the International Energy Agency says we must leave two thirds of known reserves in the ground in order to stay within the limits of climate safety, BP continues to spend billions of pounds searching for new sources of oil and gas, which we cannot possibly burn. Climate scientists are in broad agreement of the need to stay below the level of 350 parts per million of atmospheric carbon to stabilise the climate. But in the very week that the BP Walk Through British Art was opened in May, we passed 400 parts per million... There is nothing controversial or radical about what we are saying. These are the words of scientists and economists. What is controversial is Tate’s refusal to acknowledge the reality of this situation. What is radical is Tate being complicit with companies whose fundamental business model is based on the destruction of a safe and stable climate on this planet.
Another public resignation is coming from ex-employee at Tate Bridget McKenzie, who writes:

The fifth assessment report of the International Panel on Climate Change was released in October, It told us that human-caused climate change will likely cause sea levels to rise by 3 feet within this century, wiping out many coastal and estuary cities. This rising threatens all four Tates, located as they are on coasts and estuaries…. It may be that when consciousness builds of oil companies’ role in catastrophic climate change, and as the sea rises, fewer people will want or be able to visit Tate, whether or not it is offering new facilities or collections.

And earlier in the year someone copied us into another Membership resignation letter.

tate resignation letter

These are just the ones that we know about - some of the members who have gone public with their resignation.The controversy over Tate’s relationship with BP is not only affecting Tate’s brand, it’s now provoking fee-paying members to resign. Now is the time for Tate to be arranging an alternative to BP sponsorship that doesn’t provoke such revulsion amongst its gallery-goers.