Tuesday, 13 December 2011
TATE CONSIDERS ENDING BP SPONSORSHIP DEAL AFTER ENVIRONMENTAL PROTESTS
Anti-BP protesters at Tate
Environmental protesters throw molasses on the steps outside Tate Britain in protest against its sponsorship deal with BP. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images
Director of group that covers four galleries around UK says decision is due on partnership deal with BP, expiring next year
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 13 December 2011 17.05 GMT
The Tate galleries are considering ending their 20-year partnership with BP after demonstrations by green campaigners.
Tate's director, Nicholas Serota, has said a decision will be taken over whether to renew its contract with BP "quite soon", after earlier this month being presented with a petition against the gallery's sponsorship by the oil company from 8,000 Tate members and visitors organised by pressure groups Platform, Liberate Tate and Art Not Oil.
Serota said: "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."
He added that the trustees had decided 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". The current three-year sponsorship deal runs out in 2012.
Art Not Oil has also called for artists to protest against BP's sponsorship of next year's Cultural Olympiad and Festival of London. The group is calling for artists to submit work to a "BP-free Cultural Olympiad gallery" on their website.
"The Olympics has presented the company with the perfect platform for some aggressive rebranding," said the group, calling on artists to take up the "opportunity to expose the gulf between the company's rhetoric and its actions".
The oil company's sponsorship of British arts institutions including the National Gallery and the Royal Opera House, thought to be worth more than £1m a year, has attracted protests since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010. Two months later, five gallons of molasses were poured down Tate Britain's stairs at the gallery's summer party. Demonstrators have also let off dead fish attached to helium balloons in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, which had to be shot down with air rifles by gallery staff.
The issue of corporate sponsorship is set to become increasingly contentious as arts organisations are encouraged to make up the shortfall in government funding by soliciting private donations. Last week, two poets withdrew from the TS Eliot prize because it was sponsored by the investment management firm Aurum Funds. The Poetry Book Society, which organises the prize, struck the deal with Aurum after its arts council funding was withdrawn.
On Thursday, Jeremy Hunt said artists should support businesses who want to donate to the arts. Doing so "is encouraging good behaviour by corporations", the culture secretary told a meeting of the New Culture Forum, a rightwing arts thinktank. Encouraging philanthropy, Hunt added, was his top priority for the arts.
The Arts Index, launched by the National Campaign for the Arts last week, calculated that business contributions to the arts were down 17% from 2007-10, but Hunt said he hoped this year's figures would show an increase of around 6%.
BP maintained that it remained "committed" to its role with both the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival. But a spokesman said the company would not comment on the Tate sponsorship before discussions about its renewal.
A spokesperson for the Cultural Olympiad said: "BP are a supporter of many cultural institutions in the UK and we value their support."