National Gallery Pulls Arms Trade Sponsor After Protests

National Gallery

The National Gallery in London has announced the end of its long-standing sponsorship arrangement with weapons manufacturer Finmeccanica, following a campaign by ‘Campaign Against Arms Trade to ‘Disarm the Gallery.’ The arrangement has been terminated one year early and just weeks before the next protest event was planned. Italian weapon manufacturer Finmeccanica has been one of the National Gallery’s ‘corporate benefactors’ since 2006. The contract was due to run until 1 October 2013.

As a result of its deal with Finmeccanica, the Gallery has hosted receptions for international arms fairs, including the official reception for London’s Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) in September 2011 – where ten repressive regimes, including Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were among those invited to shop for weapons.

It also hosted receptions during the biennial Farnborough International, between 2006 and 2010. Following the launch of the Disarm the Gallery campaign the Gallery announced it would not be hosting any events for Farnborough in 2012.
Thousands of people have raised their concern with the Gallery in writing and through a series of creative interventions inside and outside the Gallery. Last month, BBC3’s The Revolution will be Televised featured a stunt where Peter Kennard’s Haywain with Cruise Missiles was added to the Gallery’s walls. Artists have supported the campaign throughan open letter to the Gallery and by creating their own artworks inspired by its support for the arms trade.

Sarah Waldron, Campaigner for Campaign Against Arms Trade said
“We are delighted that the Gallery’s relationship with Finmeccanica has come to an end: many people were deeply concerned that an iconic and much-loved institution had chosen to support such an unethical industry. An association with such a company could only tarnish the Gallery’s reputation.”
“This deal gave practical support to Finmeccanica’s business activities but, more importantly, the company was able to use the Gallery’s facilities and prestige to give the appearance of legitimacy to its work. We hope the end of this relationship marks a recognition that arms companies and their deadly deals have no place in our arts institutions.”

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) in the UK works to end the international arms trade. The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems. Around 75% of CAAT’s income is raised from individual supporters. In 2012, CAAT was awarded a Right Livelihood Award, the ‘alternative Nobel Prize’ for its ‘innovative and effective campaigning against the arms trade.’ The Disarm the Gallery campaign is organised by the Stop The Arms Fair coalition and Campaign Against Arms Trade.The National Gallery has been sponsored by Finmeccanica since 2006. This deal was worth £30,000 over the last year. This amount entitled Finmeccanica to hold two dinners or evening receptions each year, along with other benefits.

The National Gallery has an ‘ethical fundraising policy’ but this does not outline what might be considered ethical or unethical funding. Rather, it says that sponsorship should not be accepted if it would harm the gallery. Harm includes the Gallery incurring “a level of criticism from the press, public or any other relevant community of professionals disproportionate to the benefit derived” and serious damage to the Gallery’s reputation.

Finmeccanica is the world’s eighth largest arms company, produces military helicopters, fighter aircraft, drones, missiles, radar and targeting systems, missiles, naval guns, artillery and armoured combat vehicles. Its sales include attack helicopters to Turkey for use against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), military helicopters to Algeria for “battlefield and internal security requirements”, a border control and security system to Libya, drones to Pakistan and armoured vehicles to Oman. Although based in Italy, with over 30 percent owned by the Italian government, there is substantial production in the UK and US. It is currently under investigation over allegations of corruption.

The Gallery is not the only Museum to have made deals with arms companies. The Natural History Museum hosted the official reception for this year’s Farnborough’s International. The London Transport Museum is sponsored by Thales: its rooms have been used for meetings with the UK Trade and Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), the government body responsible for promoting arms sales, and Indian Defence groups. The Royal Opera House receives funding from Chemring, whose weapons were used against protesters in Egypt last year, and in Kuwait at the beginning of October. While the arts have faced dramatic cuts in public funding, the government supports arms exports with subsidies of an estimated £700 million a year.

The National Gallery disclosed that they were on a three year contract with Finmeccanica and the arms company decided to terminate the contract after two years.

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