BP’s sponsorship of the arts comes under attack

BP’s sponsorship of artistic institutions is coming under fire from artists and pressure groups, which claim the company is using sponsorship to mask the environmentally destructive nature of its activities.

This week a group of artists, poets, writers and film makers called Good Crude Britannia will picket a summer party held by Tate Britain that is celebrating 20 years of BP sponsorship.

The event has also led to over 170 artists putting their names to an open letter that attacks Tate Britain for accepting BP sponsorship. The letter in The Guardian takes issue with the fact “BP executives will be enjoying a cocktail reception with curators and artists at Tate Britain” as “oil continues to devastate coastlines and communities in the Gulf of Mexico”. The 171 signatories include cartoonist Martin Rowson, comedian Robert Newman and playwright Caryl Churchill.

“We represent a cross-section of people from the arts community that believe that the BP logo represents a stain on Tate’s international reputation,” says the letter. “The public is rapidly coming to recognise that the sponsorship programmes of BP and Shell are means by which attention can be distracted from their impacts on human rights, the environment and the global climate.”

BP is also a major sponsor of the Royal Opera House, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Almeida theatre and the Science and Natural History Museums. The recipients of BP’s sponsorship are coming out in support of the oil company.

The Tate, the Royal Opera House, the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery issued a joint statement saying: “We are grateful to BP for their long-term commitment. The income generated through corporate partnerships is vital to the mixed economy of successful arts organisations and enables each of us to deliver a rich and vibrant cultural programme.”

BP’s disastrous handling of the oil spoil in the Gulf of Mexico is leading to speculation that BP chief executive Tony Hayward will resign imminently. Russian deputy prime minister Igor Sechin says “we know that Tony Hayward is leaving his position and he will introduce his successor”.

Sechin was talking to reporters ahead of a meeting with Hayward that is designed to address the Kremlin’s worries over BP’s operations in Russia. BP has dismissed Sechin’s suggestions. Sechin also holds the position of chairman at state-run oil producer OAO Rosneft.

This story first appeared on pitch

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