Art Gallery: Yes to Oil Paintings, No to Oil Funding – Grist


It’s Thursday February 24 and a prestigious art gallery is breaking with BP.

London’s National Portrait Gallery, or NPG, announced on Tuesday that it would end a long-standing and controversial partnership with an oil giant.

NPG’s sponsorship deal with BP will end in December, the museum said in a press release, ending more than 30 years of partnership with the fossil fuel company. “The Gallery is extremely grateful to BP for its long-term support of the BP Portrait Award,” the NPG said in a press release, noting that it will not be renewing its contract at the end of the year.

The annual Portrait Award has long been the target of criticism from artists and advocacy groups who say BP’s sponsorship helps bolster the oil company’s shaky reputation. In 2019, nearly 80 leading artists and award winners called on the director of the NPG to cut ties with BP and put the museum back on the “good side of history”. That same year, Extinction Rebellion protesters gained international attention by staging a mock oil spill in one of the museum’s main halls. “NPG, drop BP,” demanded the group.

Today, the efforts of advocacy groups appear to be bearing fruit. The NPG joins a wave of UK museums and cultural institutions that have ended their relationships with oil and gas companies in recent years, including the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Galleries Scotland. The Scottish National Ballet also announced on Tuesday that it had cleared the end of a sponsorship deal with BP.

Jess Worth, co-director of advocacy group Culture Unstained, said the series of announcements represented an “irresistible rejection” of fossil fuel funding by major cultural institutions.

Culture Unstained says it will now focus on the British Museum, one of the most visited museums in the world, whose partnership with BP is ongoing. As BP announces ‘obscene profits’, Culture Unstained tweetedthe British Museum “helps it rehabilitate its public image by selling its legitimacy!

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