Ending oil industry sponsorship of the arts
The legitimacy of BP’s new sponsorship deal with the British Museum has been called into question after Freedom of Information disclosures have exposed an 'ethical black hole' at the heart of the UK’s most visited cultural institution. Read the full report and source materials here.
- Photo by Diana More
The revelations come on the same day museum trustees meet in Manchester for an ‘away day’ – believed to be the first time they will meet since the museum announced it was renewing its five-year deal with BP in July. Art Not Oil can now reveal that, despite high-profile controversy and widespread public and staff opposition, trustees were not given a say in this decision
The new evidence, uncovered by the Art Not Oil coalition, reveals:
The revelations come a week after a huge ‘splashmob’ protest in the museum indicated that opposition to the BP sponsorship deal continues to grow. Over 200 ‘actorvists’ took part in an hour-long mass ocean-themed flashmob in the museum’s Great Court, organised by theatrical protest group and Art Not Oil coalition member BP or not BP? The unsanctioned performance featured singing mermaids, BP pirates and a giant 40-foot kraken puppet the group smuggled in despite security bag checks. The performance highlighted the bizarre irony of BP’s sponsorship of the museum’s Sunken Cities exhibition when it is making such a large contribution to global warming, and called for the new BP deal to be overturned before it officially begins in 2018.
- Photo by Kristian Buus
Jess Worth, from Art Not Oil, said:
‘We expect dodgy deals from BP, but not from the British Museum, which appears to have an ethical black hole at its heart. If there had been proper ethical scrutiny, there’s no way BP’s sponsorship could have been renewed. But without a dedicated ethics policy, an ethics committee or active oversight by its trustees, the director could overlook BP’s role as one of the world’s most destructive fossil fuel companies and ignore the damage it is doing to the museum’s reputation. The renewal meets neither the ethical standards we expect of leading museums nor the ethical standards being demanded by the public. This deal is illegitimate and must be reversed.'
Clara Paillard, President of the PCS Union Culture Sector which represents many British Museum staff, commented:
‘Last year, we wrote to Neil MacGregor with the PCS Culture Sector’s concerns about BP sponsorship at the British Museum. He assured us that any ethical questions arising around sponsorship are discussed and decided by the Board of Trustees, and that they take this very seriously. I am now finding out that the Trustees were merely "informed” rather than taking the decision. This is very disappointing. When we carried out a survey of staff at the museum back in March, 62% thought oil sponsorship was not ethical. It is time for Big Oil to become persona non grata in our museums, just as tobacco companies are. Climate change is happening now and these fossil fuel corporations shouldn't be given a license to build a reputation as philanthropists rather than the climate-wreckers they are.’
In July, BP announced a new 5-year sponsorship deal with the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company, but slashed its total spend from £10m to £7.5m. Earlier this year, the end of BP’s sponsorship of Tate and the Edinburgh International Festival was announced after 26 years and 36 years respectively, following sustained creative protest.