Tate Weigh Up Dropping BP Sponsorship In 2012

Tate, NPG, BM and ROH sign partnership deal with BP for a further five years

Over the past few months the Tate board of trustees have debated the future of BP as a gallery sponsor. On the 19 December they concluded it was in the interest of the organisation to keep cosy with the oil giant. Over 8000 Tate members, staff and visitors signed a petition to disassociate the Tate from BP, who sponsors four other A lister British arts institutions, including, the National Portrait Gallery, The British Museum and the Royal Opera House. The lucritive contracts are worth around £3.4m a year and have attracted controversy following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The Art Not Oil protest highlighted the disaster by pouring gallons of molasses down Tate Britain’s steps, during its annual summer party. Demonstrators also launched helium balloons with dead fish attached to them, inside Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and poured oil inside the visitors entrance of the British Museum.

Ethical only cooperate patronage, raises serious questions about the DCMS drive to attract more high profile sponsorship. The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has openly stated that; ” Artists should support firms that donate; it is encouraging good behaviour by corporations.” Philanthropy in the arts is part of the Coalition Government’s strategy. Hunt revealed this was a main priority for the arts. Despite a public out cry it was reported today that the big four will take the money and continue to have BP as a major sponsor.

In a recent letter to the Director of the Tate, Sir Nicholas Serota,  Art Not Oil wrote, I am writing to you as someone who has enormous respect for the cultural contribution that Tate makes to the world, and also as someone  who is greatly concerned by the damage being caused by BP to ecosystems, communities and the climate. Apart from the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico spill, BP is also expanding into devastating tar sands extraction in Canada, is drilling in risky regions in the Arctic and as a company is responsible for more carbon emissions than the UK itself. There is a contradiction in Tate being committed to climate action while also being heavily associated to a company whose business model is binding us to a catastrophically dangerous future and outdated energy model. This association is damaging to Tate’s reputation and its relationship with an increasingly climate-conscious general public. It is for these reasons that I call on Tate to: 1) Take the necessary steps to disengage from BP as a sponsor, and stop allowing Tate to be used to deflect attention away from the devastating impacts that BP has around the world. 2) As part of that process, and as a show of your commitment to the national public debate about ethics and sponsorship, to disclose the amount that BP donates to Tate, as has been the subject of Freedom of Information requests.

Nicholas Serota’s full response at the Tate Members AGM 2011 was as follows: “You will not be surprised to learn that the whole question of the support from BP has exercised Trustees quite seriously over the past two years. Both the Trustees as a Board but also the Trustees through their Ethics Committee, which was instituted about four years ago, have looked very carefully at the question. They are aware, of course, that there are members of the audience, both here and also more widely, who have expressed real concern at the continuing support BP have been giving. “The Trustees have recognised that BP has supported the gallery over a 20 year period. They have been in a partnership with BP over that period and have decided not to withdraw from that partnership in the belief that the good that has been done through the money that has come from BP for the gallery, and for the gallery’s public, has been very profound. They are in the process of whether or not to extend the relationship. “All I can really say today is that the views that you have registered will be conveyed to the Trustees. It is a decision that is going to be taken quite soon. I will certainly register to the Trustees the point that you have made today and, indeed, the number of Members that have signed this petition. “The Trustees will have a very difficult decision to make, I think, in terms of their responsibility as Trustees of the charity, to take monies that are offered to them from organisations that are continuing to act in a manner that is not in any way running against the laws of this country; that are basically a company that is continuing to act in a way that many other companies do in terms of producing oil, which probably many of the people in this room have used in order to come to this very event. But they nevertheless need to weigh all the considerations and it is not an easy choice, I think, for the Trustees to make.” 

Serota stated today (19th December)

“BP has been one of the most long-standing supporters of the arts and the announcement today demonstrates a continuing commitment to the cultural life of this country. Over the past twenty years BP’s sponsorship of Tate Britain has allowed us to do far more with the way we display our Collection. From showing historic masterpieces to presenting the latest developments in contemporary art, the BP British Art displays make both the famous and the lesser-known works of British art accessible to a variety of audiences. Over 30 million people have come to Tate Britain to view collection displays in the past 22 years. BP’s continued support over the next five years will be vital as we rehang the displays in 2013 following completion of major building works.”

Breaking News

The major four Arts institutions stated in an e-mailed release and joint presentation at the British Museum today, that  the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House, and Tate Britain will renew and extend their long-standing partnerships with BP. In total, BP will invest almost £10 million in the four partnerships over the next five years. Taken together, these agreements represent one of the most significant long-term corporate investments in UK arts and culture.
The renewal and expansion of the partnerships were announced today in the BP Lecture Theatre in the British Museum in London, at an event attended by Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries and Iain Conn, managing director of BP, together with Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery and Nicholas Serota, Director Tate.

Each of the four institutions has a long-standing partnership with BP – most stretching back over 20 years – which the new agreements will extend for a further five years, out to 2017. The increased level of funding from BP will also allow them to further develop their programmes and extend access to wider audiences.

Providing secure funding and building long-term relationships with partner institutions is a key approach in BP’s support of the arts and culture in the UK. This helps underpin the institutions’ long-term development of programmes of exhibitions and performances, helping them to secure performers, artists and works of art well into the future.
Since the beginning of the institutions’ partnerships with BP
In total, over 3 million people across the UK engaged with BP-supported arts and cultural activities in 2011. As a Premier Partner of the London 2012 Festival, BP is also helping to showcase the UK’s cultural excellence and diversity to an even wider audience.



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