The National Portrait Gallery has announced the end of its partnership with bp. The London Gallery confirmed that they would not extend beyond December 2022, when their current contract ends. The partnership spanned more than 30 years, with the oil company sponsoring the Gallery’s Portrait Award, one of the longest-running cultural events in London.
The Gallery is committed to working with artists and continuing to promote portraiture
On the upshot, the sponsorship enabled more than six million visitors to enjoy free admission to the exhibition and contributed to the career development of more than 1,500 portrait artists, from aspiring young painters to established professionals. On the downside, by being associated with a toxic oil company, the Gallery lost a lot of credibility with environmentally-minded young people.
Tate ended its 26-year sponsorship of the Tate in 2017. “The company tried to buy public support by quadrupling the amount of money they gave the Tate. As BP fought over compensation for Gulf of Mexico communities in the US courts, they were throwing money at the Tate in an attempt to detoxify their brand.” They only supported Tate with £350k a year in funds 5% of Tates annual funding.
The announcement by bp and the National Portrait Gallery comes as bp reviews its partnerships and initiatives to ensure activity aligns with its new strategy. Louise Kingham CBE, Senior Vice President, Europe & Head of Country, the UK at bp, said: “We are immensely proud of our role in championing British arts and culture for over 30 years, but the bp of today is a very different company from when we first started our partnership with the National Portrait Gallery.
“What the National Portrait Gallery continues to provide and showcase for the public is outstanding, and we couldn’t be more honoured to have helped support them. We have enjoyed a close partnership throughout and wish them every success for the future.”
Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: “The Gallery is hugely grateful to bp for its long-term support of the BP Portrait Award. Its funding for the Award has fostered creativity, encouraged portrait painting for over 30 years, given a platform to artists from around the world and provided inspiration and enjoyment for audiences across the UK.
The Gallery is committed to working with artists and continuing to promote portraiture, and we look forward to developing the future Portrait Award as we plan for our reopening in 2023.”
bp’s current sponsorship of the BP Portrait Award ends in 2022. The BP Portrait Award is not staged in 2021 and 2022, while the National Portrait Gallery’s building in St Martin’s Place is closed for redevelopment. bp is generously honouring the sponsorship contract, and the remaining funds will support the Gallery’s work.
The National Portrait Gallery was founded in 1856 to encourage, through portraiture, the appreciation and understanding of the people who have made and are making British history and culture. Today it promotes engagement with portraiture in all media to a wide-ranging public by conserving, growing and sharing the world’s Largest Collection of portraits.
The Gallery in St Martin’s Place, London, is closed until 2023, while essential building works take place on the Inspiring People redevelopment project, which will transform the Gallery, including a complete refurbishment of the building and a new learning centre. During the closure period, the Gallery will continue to share its Collection through its digital platform.