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December 19 2011

Galleries renew £10m BP deal despite environmental protests

The British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House and Tate have renewed BP sponsorship deals

Four of the UK's biggest cultural organisations – the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and Tate – have announced they are to renew sponsorship deals with BP worth £10m despite opposition from environmental campaigners.

The institutions have faced repeated protests in recent years for taking money from the oil giant. The leaders of all four gathered together in a show of solidarity and said the sponsorship would continue until 2017.

Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said there were protests every year at its BP-sponsored portrait prize. He said: "We absolutely respect the right of those who wish to protest and we would always think about any sponsorship very carefully." But he said BP's support over the years had been "extraordinary" and there had been "unanimous clarity" among the gallery's board of trustees in agreeing to renew the deal.

The Tate director, Nicholas Serota, said his organisation had thought very hard about the sponsorship and had looked at it again in 2010 and this year. "The board has thought very carefully about this and decided it was the right thing to do to continue with BP, who have been great supporters of the arts," he said.

Protests against BP's involvement intensified after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but Serota said: "The fact that they have one major incident in 2010 does not mean we should not take support from them."

BP's sponsorship of the arts has been longstanding and substantial and it said the future £10m over five years would be roughly equally divided between the four organisations.

Tate Britain has also been the target of protests including one outside its summer party last year, when protesters poured oil and feathers on the pavement. BP's support for its British art displays, which will undergo a major rehang in 2013, will continue.

At the Royal Opera House, BP will continue to support the Big Screen live relays of opera and ballet from Covent Garden to sites around the country. And at the British Museum BP has sponsored exhibitions such as Italian Renaissance Drawings and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and will continue to give support over the next five years including sponsorship of a Vikings show in 2014.

The culture minister, Ed Vaizey, said: "BP's renewed commitment to four of Britain's great cultural institutions is extremely welcome. This is a significant investment, with £10m going directly towards staging world-class exhibitions and performances. For more than 20 years BP has led the way in business support for the arts and I am delighted that this will continue over the next five years."

Kevin Smith, of the art campaign group Platform, said: "By aligning themselves with BP, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and Tate Britain are legitimising the devastation of indigenous communities in Canada through tar sands extraction, the expansion of dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic, and the reckless business practices that lead to the deaths of 11 oil workers on the Deepwater Horizon. BP's involvement with these institutions represents a serious stain on the UK's cultural patrimony."

BP's managing director, Iain Conn, said the company felt it important "that we make a meaningful contribution to society here in the UK. Our work with these partner institutions is a major part of this – enabling people around the country and the world to connect through the experience of outstanding exhibitions and performances, promoting ideas and encouraging creativity."


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Slick art sponsorship: BP and the Tate

Calm down, dears, the Tate is renewing its sponsorship deal with BP. But before you join the BP-Tate haters, stop and think about how else galleries are supposed to survive funding cuts

The Tate is renewing its sponsorship deal with BP – shock, horror, how dare they.

Oh, give me a break. The campaign to stop Tate, the National Portrait Gallery and other museums from accepting money from Britain's controversial petroleum outfit is the stupidest and most misplaced of supposedly radical campaigns. Why not do something useful like join Occupy? While protests around the world this year, from Wall Street to Tahrir Square, have picked the right causes and enemies, the BP art campaign is mistargeted, misconceived and massively self-indulgent.

I would have thought the involvement of Bob and Roberta Smith dealt it the death blow. Having Bob and Roberta on your side should make anyone think twice. The silliest and most spurious artist in Britain speaks out against BP! It must be an oil man's birthday.

Declaration of interest: I went to a party with a lot of BP executives earlier this year, to celebrate the Portrait award at the National Portrait Gallery. Big men in suits, demonstrators at the door ... And I shrugged.

Galleries need money. Presumably all of you who are angry about oily art are also strong supporters of free museums? Well, the involvement of BP obviously makes it easier for galleries like the Tate to work at the world-class level they do and remain free. Either museums are going to survive and be first-rate in these challenging times, or they are going to be reduced to sad shells of themselves. Cultural sponsorship is an excellent way for them to resist the impact of cuts.

The critics of business sponsorship are playing fantasy politics against the softest of targets. Museums are not anyone's enemy. But they are vulnerable precisely because they are run by decent people. Let's guilttrip them! So much easier than taking on the heartless corporations themselves.

Pick your targets well. Museums are beacons of culture. They are not the running dogs of capitalism – and if they can get BP to hand over its filthy lucre for the cause of art, well, it is going to good use.


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December 13 2011

Tate may not renew BP sponsorship after protests

Director of group that covers four galleries around UK says decision is due on partnership deal with BP, expiring next year

The Tate galleries are reviewing their 20-year partnership with BP, after demonstrations by green campaigners.

Tate's director, Sir Nicholas Serota, has said it will decide whether to renew the contract with BP "quite soon". This month he was presented with a petition from 8,000 Tate members and visitors organised by the pressure groups Platform, Liberate Tate and Art Not Oil. Serota said: "You'll 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." 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 runs out in 2012. Art Not Oil has also called for protest against BP's sponsorship of next year's Cultural Olympiad and Festival of London. It asks artists to submit work to a "BP-free Cultural Olympiad gallery" on its website. "The Olympics has presented the company with the perfect platform for some aggressive rebranding," it said.

The company's sponsorship of British arts institutions, including the National Gallery and the Royal Opera House, is worth more than £1m a year. It first attracted protests after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Two months later, five gallons of molasses were poured down Tate Britain's stairs at its summer party. Demonstrators also let off helium balloons in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall with dead fish attached which were shot down with air rifles by gallery staff.

Sponsorship is increasingly contentious as arts organisations make up the shortfall in government funding. Last week, two poets withdrew from the TS Eliot prize sponsored by investment management firm Aurum Funds; the Poetry Book Society struck the deal with Aurum after its arts council funding was withdrawn. On Thursday, the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said artists should support firms that donate; it is "is encouraging good behaviour by corporations", he told the New Culture Forum, a rightwing arts thinktank. Encouraging philanthropy, Hunt added, was his priority for the arts.

Arts Index, launched by the National Campaign for the Arts last week, calculates business contributions are down 17% from 2007-10, but Hunt said he hoped this coming year would show an increase of 6%.

BP said it remained "committed" to the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival. But a spokesman said it would not comment on the Tate sponsorship before talks on its renewal. The Cultural Olympiad said it valued BP's support.


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June 15 2011

Climate activists target BP Portrait Award

Protesters displayed a collection of portraits outside the gallery showing the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Climate activists on Tuesday night targeted the BP Portrait Award ceremony in protest against sponsorship from the oil giant.

Demonstrators claimed BP was using the arts in an attempt to divert attention away from its impact on the environment.

But the National Portrait Gallery said the support of the global company was beneficial to artists.

The protesters displayed a collection of portraits outside the gallery that showed the impact of last year's Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

One of the pictures, entitled First Splash Since Spill, pictured a child playing in oil-covered water in Louisiana after being told it was safe.

The artist, Beverly Curole, said: "I captured Max, my grandson, on the first day the beach was opened and supposedly safe.

"Max was so excited he jumped in the water and made a huge splash. I then noticed flecks of oil at the tide line and knew something was wrong.

Some 14 portraits from the US Gulf Coast were submitted for tonight's award by campaign group Facing the Gulf.

Despite none of them being selected by the judges, the organiser Nancy Boulicault hoped they would force the gallery to look again at its link with BP.

She said: "We think the National Portrait Gallery needs to start asking themselves some questions about this relationship, in the same way as the people of the Gulf have had to ask themselves very serious questions."

She went on to say that the artists had some sympathy with the gallery.

"They understand the complications that come when oil becomes part of your life, because it's part of their lives.

"But what became quite important to everyone is the fact that we need another vision without oil in our lives.

"Our cultural institutions are about trying to create another vision, but when they are in bed with oil it's very hard for us to find that vision through our arts."

Facing the Gulf and direct action group London Rising Tide invited Sandy Nairne, the gallery's director, to view the alternative exhibition ahead of tonight's ceremony but said he declined.

A spokesman for the gallery said: "The National Portrait Gallery, while principally supported by grant-in-aid from government, is pleased to work with a wide range of companies in support of its exhibitions and displays.

"The sponsorship of the annual Portrait Award by BP is now in its 22nd year and their support directly encourages the work of artists and helps gain wider recognition for them."


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July 02 2010

Can Tate afford BP?

The oil company might give generously to arts organisations, but Tate and other museums must live up to their ethical commitments. It's time to ditch this tainted sponsor

Jonathan Jones has some simple words of advice for national artistic institutions currently feeling the financial squeeze: "If they can get money from Satan himself, they should take it." The phrase is deliberately provocative, but succeeds in reaching the heart of the debate over BP's sponsorship of the arts. The argument is straightforward enough – it's time to batten down the hatches and ignore the storm of protest, because without organisations such as BP the arts might simply cease to exist.

Responding to Jones yesterday, the artist John Jordan suggested one problem with this approach: that art risks selling its soul. BP's money is tainted, and it is hard to see how the company's reputation won't have a long-term impact on those who accept it. The spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the environmental scandal of the decade, but it won't be the last. And as BP strives to extract the last drops of oil from ever more remote regions of the planet, a whole new kind of reputational risk begins to emerge. Shocking images of oil-soaked pelicans will not be around for ever, but the consequences of climate change will be with us for the rest of the century.

Tate director Nicholas Serota needs to consider this risk carefully. Does his institution want to be associated with one of the world's biggest single sources of pollution? One that has actively lobbied to undermine clean energy, pouring huge sums into industry groups that campaign to lower carbon taxes and weaken climate legislation? BP's alternative energy business is a plaything of former boss Lord Browne that has been consigned to the corporate rubbish tip. For these reasons and others, BP is certain to remain the focus of environmental resistance and public anger for years to come. Similarly, those who choose to lend the company an air of acceptability by receiving corporate sponsorship will continue to be seen as legitimate targets for protest around the world. This movement is still in its infancy, but will only gather in strength.

The second problem simply concerns credibility. The Tate website proudly proclaims its ethical policy, announcing that it will not accept funds from a donor who has "acted, or is believed to have acted, illegally in the acquisition of funds". As lawmakers on Capitol Hill put the final touches to a series of massive lawsuits, and criminal prosecutions loom on the horizon, it is hard to find a single individual who claims that BP has acted in compliance with the law. Far more compelling, though, is the Tate's stated ambition to demonstrate "leadership in response to climate change". If ever there were a moment to show such leadership, this is surely it. Tate has a unique opportunity to demonstrate that one of the UK's most progressive institutions is prepared to take meaningful steps to show its opposition to carbon-intensive industry. Currently, it refuses to even acknowledge BP's record as an issue, relying instead on bland statements that mention only the longevity of BP's financial support. There is clearly a disconnect, and behind closed doors there must be real uneasiness in the boardroom – not to mention the membership.

The issue here is not sponsorship per se, but choices. Over the past few days a number of commentators have pointed out that tobacco companies are now seen as an unacceptable partner for any self-respecting artistic body, but for some reason oil companies are still welcome to the private view. This comes despite human rights abuses, refinery explosions, the destruction of entire ecosystems, and political interference on a historic scale. You have to wonder why. Sure, BP probably offers slightly more money than the other companies vying for the sponsorship deal. They probably don't interfere too much, either (some might say that they know a thing or two about secrecy and discretion). But the fact is that there must be a host of other companies out there who actually fit the existing ethical policy of these organisations, and a relatively small financial hit is surely worth the reputational protection such a deal would provide.

By now you might be asking what all the fuss is about. After all, it's only a small logo on a programme, a discreet thank you at the bottom of the catalogue. Jones says: "I must have seen the BP logo a thousand times on press releases and it never lodged in my mind." But ask any branding expert: it's exactly this kind of subliminal association that gives a brand its identity. Until the Gulf of Mexico disaster, BP's green sunflower was found only in carefully selected locations designed to give the company an air of clean, British authority: Covent Garden, the National Portrait awards, a new exhibition at the Tate. These are some of our best loved pastimes, and for BP this feelgood factor is simply priceless. Their executives do not sponsor the arts as a way of "giving something back", or because they truly believe in opera, or painting, or culture. They simply believe in winning political and cultural aquiescence in the ugly business of oil extraction, and the sponsorship deals allow them to do just that. The millions BP spends on our artistic institutions represents an absolute bargain. Unfortunately, it is the rest of society that is being ripped off.


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June 27 2010

Crude culture

Tonight, the Tate Britain is holding a summer party in which it is also celebrating 20 years of BP sponsorship (Galleries and museums face summer of protest over BP arts sponsorship, 25 June). As crude oil continues to devastate coastlines and communities in the Gulf of Mexico, BP executives will be enjoying a cocktail reception with curators and artists at Tate Britain. These relationships enable big oil companies to mask the environmentally destructive nature of their activities with the social legitimacy that is associated with such high-profile cultural associations.

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. Many artists are angry that Tate and other national cultural institutions continue to sidestep the issue of oil sponsorship. Little more than a decade ago, tobacco companies were seen as respectable partners for public institutions to gain support from – that is no longer the case. It is our hope that oil and gas will soon be seen in the same light. 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.

Hans Haacke, artist

John Keane, artist

Caryl Churchill, playwright

Matthew Herbert, electronic artist and composer

Suzi Gablik, art critic and writer

Gordon Roddick, art philanthopist

Rebecca Solnit, writer and art critic

Lucy R. Lippard, writer and curator

Davey Anderson, playwright

Adam Chodzko, artist

Beverly Naidus, artist and professor

Suzanne Lacy, artist

Chris Jordan, artist

Cat Phillipps, artist

Martin Rowson, cartoonist

Robert Newman, comedian and writer

Sonia Boyce, artist

Barbara Steveni, artist and initiator of Artist Placement Group

Peter Fend, artist

SaiMuRai (Simon Murray), writer, poet, artist

Ackroyd & Harvey, artists

Aidan Jolly, musician, community artist

Jon Sack, artist

Matthew Lee Knowles, composer

Theodore Price, artist

Scott Massey, artist

Ben Mellor, writer, performer, educator

Gary Anderson, The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home, artist collective

David Haley FRSA, ecological artist and Senior Research Fellow

Alana Jelinek, artist and curator

Rachel Anderson, creative producer

John Volynchook, photographer

Jackie Brookner, artist

Suzanne Lacy, artist

Neil Callaghan, artist

Jonathan Baxter, artist and arts organiser

Mark McGowan, artist

Catrin Evans, artistic director and theatre practitioner

James Stenhouse, artist

Charlie Fox, artist and producer

Roxanne Permar, artist

Jane Lawson, artist

John Jordan, artist and writer

Hemant Anant Jain, illustrator

The Space Hijackers, art interventionists

Clare Patey artist/curator

Matthias von Hartz, Director Hamburg International Festival

Lois Keidan, Live art Development Agency

Lucy Neal, artist and producer

Lise Autogena, artist

Marcelo Expósito, artist and critic

Steve Duncombe, cultural theorist/writer

Cameron Davis, artist and professor of art at Vermont University

Kim Stringfellow, artist/associate professor, SDSU

Ros Martin, poet and playwright

Amy Balkin, artist

John Hartley, artist

Amber Hickey, artist

Christian Nold, artist

Isabeau Doucet, painter

Jean Grant, creative director

Hayley Newman, artist

Christian de Sousa, artist and photographer

Immo Klink, artist

Susan Kelly, artist and art lecturer

Aviv Kruglanski, artist

Steve Stuffit, artist

Helen Spackman, artistic director and senior lecturer in performing arts

Lorena Rivero de Beer, artist

Janey Hunt, artist

Gregory Sholette, artist and writer

Mem Morrison, artistic director

Lars Kwakkenbos, artist and writer

Tom Besley, producer

Jane Trowell, Platform, arts/activist organisation

Fran Crowe, artist

Sharon Salazar, filmmaker/director

Leah Gordon, photographer, filmmaker and curator

Alke Schmidt, artist

Monika Vykoukal, curator

CJ Mitchell, deputy director of Live Art Development Agency

Julian Maynard Smith, director of Station House Opera

Sue Palmer, artist

Brett Bloom, artist

Kerry Burton, artist

Isa Fremeaux, The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination, art/activist collective

Anna Francis, artist

Ana Betancour, artist and architect

Simone Paterson, new media artist and academic

Ian Teh, photographer

Alejandro Meitin, artist

Simone Kenyon, artist and producer

Milena Placentile, curator

Nick Turner, artist and designer

Fabio Sassi, artist

Ruth Ewan, artist

Raoul Martinez, artist

Robert McAdam, painter

Katy Fattuhi, arts marketer

John Holt, artist and writer

Katy Hallett, director, Art Programme

Judy Price, artist

Stephanie Thieullent, photographer, artist

Felix Gonzales, filmmaker, artist

Rafael Santos, artist

Adrian Arbib, photographer

Ian Hunter, Director, Littoral

Ele Carpenter, curator

Helene Aylon, activist artist

Pamela Graham, artist

Louise Jones, director, Lemon Street Gallery

Ciel Bergman, artist/environmental activist

Glauco Bermudez, Cinematographer

Marianne Soisalo, artist

Mariana Bassani, photographer

Michele Petillo, artist

Siobhan Mckeown, artist

ZEV, tex/sound artist

Mira Schor, artist and writer

Judith Knight, Director, Artsadmin

Gill Lloyd, Director, Artsadmin

Danielle Frank, artist

Stuart Bracewell, artist.

Beverley Dale, Digital Artist

Vahida Ramujkic, Artist

Mark Vallen, painter, printmaker, writer

Toni Martinez-Solera, artist

Lucy Fairley, artist

Noel Douglas artist, designer, activist

Gareth Evans, writer and curator

Stevphen Shukaitis, arts /media/cultural publisher

Kuljit Chuhan, Creative producer and digital media artist

Calum F. Kerr, artist

Lisa Wesley, artist

Jody Boehnert, designer, artist and writer

Heide Fasnacht, visual artist

Michelle Jaffé, artist

Jan Brooks, artist

Peter Harrison, propeller arts collective

Deanne Belinoff, artist

Michelle Waters, artist

Fern Shaffer, artist

Harmony Hammond, artist and art writer

Simon Whetham, sound artist

Mimi Poskitt, director

Michaela Crimmin, curator and critic

Wallace Heim, writer and academic

Ciel Bergman, painter

Ali Sparror – artist

Lucy Reeves - Film designer

The Vacuum Cleaner, art/activist,

Robby Herbst, artist

Anja Steidinger, visual artist

Claire Hildreth, photographer

Loraine Leeson, artist

Kayle Brandon, artist

Peter Offord, artist

Julie Green, painter

Murray Wason, artist

Christina Moore, production designer

Emma Byron, artist and performer

Miche Fabre Lewin, artist-cuisiuniere

Kate Rich, artist

Madeleine Hodge, artist and curator

Kirstin Forkert, artist

Martin Nakell, poet, fictionalist

Liam Hurley, writer, theatre director, story teller

Mike Perry, artist

Phil Maxwell adn Hazuan Hashim, artists

Greg Pact, artist

• Recent catastrophic events in the Gulf of Mexico have brought to a head a situation that for many years has been uncomfortable, but tolerated. Now we find it necessary to stand up and deplore the Tate galleries' sponsorship by BP.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management's Arts and Environment Network (AEN) was formed in 2007 to put creativity at the heart of environmental policy and practice. Its members represent cultural institutions, universities and agencies entrusted to care for the environment.

As the world and indeed Tate have learned to flourish without support from slavery, tobacco and alcohol, we and they must learn to emerge from the culture of fossil fuels and the insidious oil industry. BP, Shell and all other petrochemical corporations must be denied control of our arts and cultural institutions, right now. As Tate is about to celebrate 10 years of funding from BP, we call on the trustees and director of Tate to put a halt to the tyranny of oil patronage and cleanse the oil stains from art. We also call on Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, to use his powers as the responsible minister to ensure this happens.

Dave Pritchard, David Haley, Nick Reeves, Emily Doyle Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

• It is understandable that, as you report, many artists and green groups are protesting against arts institutions receiving sponsorship from BP – but it is important to describe what such corporate charitable donations are – and what they are not. They are not in any way ever a meaningful contributor in a company's overall obligations to its stakeholders. The amounts are collectively too small and the selection of recipients is far too random for the largesse to be anything than incidental in the context of a big company's finances.

While some companies might seek to suggest that donations to good causes are part of their commitment to "corporate social responsibility" the public is unlikely to be fooled – you cannot buy yourself a good reputation or build brand approval by making such gifts. In reality one of the main reasons that big companies donate to arts institutions is to buy their directors privileged access to events, such as to premium seats at the opera house. For the arts institution it is a harmless and valuable source of funds to pander to the vanities of a few corporate fat cats. No wonder they are rallying round BP at the moment.

Paddy Briggs

Teddington, Middlesex

• The concept of magnificence is as old as the fact of wealth and exploitation, and public arts without money from the swollen coffers of scurrilous industrialists would be a thin stranded thing. When individuals and institutions strive to launder their reputations with their grand donations it would be churlish to carp at the sight of a little sweat or blood or a few oil-soaked feathers, especially with our government preparing to withdraw so much of their seed from the local tiller men. How did we imagine such crude and dispensable profits were derived in the first place?

BP will thrive without the arts, but art gets smashed when the barbarians are banished from the citadel.  

Julian Firth

London

• What's the difference between the reckless and irresponsible banking culture and reckless and irresponsible exploration by giant oil companies? If the government wants to regulate banks by splitting them up when they become to big or too profligate, why not apply the same principle to oil giants, media behemoths and defence goliaths which ride roughshod over the interests of the environment, societies and human rights? The real point is that western business management (and regulation) is not and never was all it was cracked up to be. A clever myth has been well watered by mainly MBAs as they spew out from business colleges, voraciously looking for companies to infect with their asset stripping takeover obsession. It's time to rethink the entire way we do business and manage firms for stakeholders instead of shareholders.

Bruce Whitehead

Edinburgh


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June 24 2010

Summer of protest over BP arts sponsorship

Prestigious institutions defend links with oil firm as artists and green activists plan action

The summer season of events at Britain's most prestigious galleries and museums will be picketed by artists and green groups intent on portraying BP's arts sponsorship as a toxic brand.

Protests are planned next Monday by an eco-alliance styling itself "Good Crude Britannia" at Tate Britain's celebration of its 20-year association with the international oil conglomerate.

Climate change activists, artists and musicians opposed to the fossil fuel industry are determined to highlight BP's link to the arts in the context of the company's international embarrassment over the continuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

But the main recipients of BP's corporate largesse – the Royal Opera House, Tate Galleries, British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery – today issued a joint statement defending the connection and signalling their determination to preserve the commercial relationship.

The calls for cultural institutions to distance themselves from the oil industry comes at a time when government spending on the arts is about to be slashed amid efforts to cut public debt.

Many of Europe's leading artists, donors and cultural supporters are expected to be greeted at the glittering annual Tate summer party by Lord Brown of Madingley, chair of the Tate and former head of BP.

The planned demonstration next Monday follows protests this week by a group of artists calling themselves the Greenwash Guerrillas, who distributed leaflets outside the National Portrait Gallery at a BP-sponsored arts event. Greenpeace campaigners followed up with an "alternative exhibition" at a private viewing at the gallery.

The oil company has refused to divulge how much money it donates to the arts in Britain but it is thought, along with Shell, to be one of the most generous donors. In 2005 the figure was estimated to be more than £1m a year. BP also sponsors the Almeida theatre, the National Maritime museum, and the Science and Natural History museums.

"Organisations like the National Portrait Gallery help shape public attitudes towards the big issues of the day and if the gallery is serious about climate change then the sponsorship deal with BP has got to end," said Robin Oakley, Greenpeace's campaigns director.

In a separate development, musicians including Lady Gaga, Korn, Disturbed, Godsmack, Creed, and the Backstreet Boys said they planned to boycott BP on their national tours this year.

"It is absurd that the Tate should be sponsored by a company that is as irresponsible and polluting as BP," said Matthew Herbert, an electronic artist and composer who will headline the jazz stage at Glastonbury this weekend.

The oil industry has been a target for artists and activists for many years. Shell was widely boycotted in the 1990s for its involvement in the Nigerian government's decision to hang the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Last month a group called Liberate Tate entered the gallery's main turbine hall and released dozens of black balloons attached to dead fish in protest against the Gulf oil spill. Gallery staff had to shoot the balloons down with air rifles.

The press opening of the BP Portrait Awards was gatecrashed this week by a film crew from the Don't Panic collective who distributed wine glasses filled with thick black liquid symbolising the spill.

"In the past Imperial Tobacco used to sponsor the portrait awards," said Heydon Prowse, one of Don't Panic's film-makers, "then it was considered no longer acceptable. Perhaps the same should be considered now for BP given its attitude to regulation and tar sands."

The Tate gallery said it had an ethics committee which regularly reviewed its sponsorship deals. "BP is one of the most important sponsors of the arts in the UK supporting Tate as well as several other leading cultural institutions. Tate works with a wide range of corporate organisations and generates the majority of its funding from earned income and private sources. The Board and Ethics committee regularly review compliance with the policy," it said.

The National Portrait Gallery said: "The sponsorship of the annual Portrait Award by BP is now in its 21st year and their support directly encourages the work of artists and helps gain wider recognition for them."

A joint statement – from the Tate, Opera House, British Museum and Portrait Gallery – added: "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.

"We are grateful to BP for their long-term commitment, sharing the vision that our artistic programmes should be made available to the widest possible audience."

Suggestions that the massive bills being shouldered by BP for the clean up operation in the Gulf might force it to scale back on its support for the arts were dismissed by the company. Many of the deals are subject to long-term contractual agreements. Abandoning them would generate adverse publicity at a sensitive time.

"Everyone has a right to protest," a BP spokesman said, "but we feel sad they would choose to do so since we are doing the best we can to deal with a difficult situation.

"In the States, we have offered grants for research on the impact of the oil and detergents and there are people looking to get that sponsorship. I'm not aware of any arts institutions in the USA or the UK withdrawing [from sponsorship deals]."

Maurice Davies, of the Museums Association, which represents UK galleries and museums, doubted that any institution would immediately disown BP given the firm's record of sustained commitment to the arts. "Museums make judgements about who is a suitable sponsor," he said. "No one would take [money] from tobacco firms or arms companies. BP has a long and distinguished record of sponsorship. No one will rush to judgment on a company that has been a loyal supporter for such a long time. I don't hear a national clamour for BP petrol stations to be shut down."


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June 22 2010

BP's beleaguered Tony Hayward disappears from view

Whether he was really seen on a yacht at Cowes is debated – but there was no sign of him on dry land as oil bosses met at a London congress

After Saturday's ill-advised attendance at a sailing event at Cowes, complete with disputed photographs that may or may not have shown him on board his yacht, Tony Hayward might be excused for resolving to keep his head down.

But the beleaguered BP chief executive's position came under renewed pressure tonight after he failed to show up at a gathering of the oil industry, having also ceded day-to-day control of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Shares in BP touched a new 13-year low after Hayward delegated a keynote speech to his chief of staff, Steve Westwell. He also cancelled a scheduled appearance at the National Portrait Gallery in London tonight where he was due to open an awards ceremony.

By dodging the World National Oil Companies Congress in London, Hayward avoided coming face-to-face with several Greenpeace protesters.

They guaranteed more bad publicity for BP by briefly halting Westwell's speech to urge an audience of oil experts and energy ministers to break their oil dependency.

"Assembled guests – because BP is incapable of telling you the truth, I'm going to tell you what you need to know," Greenpeace's Emma Gibson said, shortly after Westwell had begun by apologising for Hayward's absence.

"We need to speed up progress and make a push to end the oil age," Gibson added, before she and fellow activist Katie Swan were removed from the stage by security, along with a banner which read "Go Beyond Petroleum".

BP blamed Hayward's no-show on his busy schedule. But the company refused to discuss his whereabouts, which added to speculation that he might already be meeting with the Kremlin to discuss BP's future. Its Russian joint venture, TNK-BP, is responsible for a quarter of its production.

Amid the uncertainty BP shares fell to 328p, virtually half the value when the Deepwater rig caught fire and sank.

Security had appeared tight at The Grange St Paul's hotel today but Greenpeace managed to reach the conference room by the simple, if expensive, tactic of buying tickets, and went ahead with the protest even though Hayward was not present.

"We wanted to use the opportunity to speak to BP and push it to change things. BP shouldn't be drilling in deep water and it shouldn't extract oil from the Canadian tar sands," Swan told the Guardian after she and Gibson were released by hotel security staff.

Swan ,said she was concerned about the environmental and economic damage caused by the spill. "It looks like irreparable damage has been done. People's lives will have been changed forever," she said.

Gibson said BP was in "severe trouble" because it had not listened to activists, and had instead pushed on with increasingly risky projects.

"If they had heeded our advice over many years about the need to deliver genuine renewable energy sources, they would not be facing a $40bn (£24bn) disaster today," Swan said.

Even before the conference began today, the environmental movement was taking the opportunity to lobby Big Oil. About 200 Climate Camp activists marched to the hotel complete with a samba band on Monday night and held a mock trial of the industry for its actions around the world.

Shares in BP ended the day down 4.3% at 334.2p, their lowest close since the crisis began.

Hayward, whose PR gaffes have added to the recent criticism of BP, has now given control of the Gulf clean-up to Bob Dudley, BP's American director. City analysts are speculating over how long Hayward can continue as chief executive. "He will remain at the helm for the near term but ultimately, this fiasco might prove career-shortening for him," a fund manager from one of BP's top 20 investors told Reuters.

Westwell said Hayward was "genuinely sorry" to miss the event, before insisting that BP was committed to fixing the disaster. "When the media have left the Gulf coast, we'll still be there helping the community recover. When the headlines are focused elsewhere, we'll still be cleaning up and dealing with claims for economic losses."

He signed off with a line from Abraham Lincoln which may yet serve as Hayward's epitaph. "I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end."

With or without Hayward, BP will remain under the shadow of huge compensation payments and fines – and possible prosecution.

Meanwhile, tonight, the oil companies congress is holding its gala dinner, with the promise of "fine wine, exquisite food and the company of some of the greatest minds in the energy business". For the oil industry, even with a temporary halt on new deepwater drilling, it remains business as usual.

Tony's travels

Where's Hayward been?

The BP chief executive flew to America shortly after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April, with the loss of 11 lives. He returned to the UK for a flying visit in May to celebrate his birthday, and came back to the UK again last week following his savaging by Congress on Thursday. Spending Saturday yachting at Cowes proved the latest in a series of blunders.

Where's he now?

BP refuses to say, arguing that it never reveals its chief executive's location – even when he has abandoned a keynote speech at the last minute.

Where should he be?

In Russia, for a meeting with president Dmitry Medvedev, who has admitted he fears that BP could be destroyed by this crisis.

Reassuring the City about the company's long-term prospects would also be wise, as they face up to a dividend freeze.


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June 14 2010

South Korea: Understanding the Oil Spill From Painful Experience

By Lee Yoo Eun

As the BP oil spill disaster in the United States is reported in South Korea, numerous Korean bloggers, for whom painful memories of the deadliest oil spill in Korean history in 2007 remains fresh, are expressing their worries and sympathy to the oil spill victims.

In December 2007, 2.7 million gallons of crude oil gushed into Korea's scenic west sea near the Port of Daesan on the Yellow Sea coast of Taean County after a crane barge owned by Samsung Heavy Industries slammed into the Hebei Spirit, a Hong Kong-registered crude oil carrier, spotting Korea's west coast with jet black crude oil.

Photos from a blogger who participated in the clean up process as a volunteer.

Around 120 million people from different social backgrounds volunteered in the West Sea shore clean-up process which lasted for several months. Celebrities, politicians and professionals from various fields scrubbed stones covered in oil by hand, one-by-one, using absorbent materials to soak up the remaining oil.


A volunteer of the Taean clean-up process reported on her blog the mild distress she suffered during the clean-up work and following days due to the strong smell of the oil:

기름을 닦아내도 바닷물이 들어오면 다시 엉망이 되고마는
태안. 기름 냄새에 속이 울렁거리고 머리가 지끈거린다…집에 돌아온 지금도 온 몸이 으실으실하고 속이 메스겁다.

Even after we scrubbed off the oil, Taean turned into a mess again when the water came in. The smell of the oil gave me nausea and headaches… Even after I returned to my house,
I still felt malaise and nausea.

Even though the Korean government dispatched hundreds of vessels, cranes, helicopters and airplane to the west coast, most of the clean-up process had to rely on people's hands as the oil permeated deep and wide into the shore's complicated landscape, hiding itself in the sand and millions of rocks laying there.

A blogger on his Daum blog noted that the BP oil spill clean-up process might speed up if more manpower and financial support are injected to the process, at the same time expressing envy of the US' high-end cleanup equipment:

부자 나라답게 장비도 고급이고 대량으로 투입하기 때문에 방제작업을 의외로 싱겁게 끝날지도 모르겠습니다. 앞서도 언급했지만 손으로 일일이 닦아 내던 우리의 현실이 겹쳐집니다. …이버 서태를 대비해서 Oil pollution trust fund(기금)을 조성하여…1건당 사용 가능한 금액은 US$ 1bn (1억 달러)인데 이번 사고를 처리하기에는 턱 없이 적다는 생각이 듭니다. 우리나라처럼 자원봉사자가 많으면 모르겠지만.

Since the US is a rich country, lots of high quality equipment has been deployed at the scene in large amounts. There is a chance that the clean-up operation may prove to be much easier than people expected. This is quite contrary to our case of scrubbing oil off with our hands, one by one (from oil-inflicted objects)… The US has formed the Oil pollution trust fund…with a spending cap (of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund) for each incident at $1 billion. This is way too small since there is no large group of volunteer workers in the United States like we had in Korea.

Local media reported that the Taean oil leak was only two-thirds the amount of oil that spews from the BP oil pipe on a single day. And it was one-third of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Nevertheless it was deadly enough to kill marine life in one of Korea's largest wetland areas, damaging the fishing industry and 445 sea farms, and the tourism industry by tainting a national maritime park, thereby wrecking people's livelihoods. Samsung, one of biggest multinational conglomerate corporations in Korea, had been blamed for causing the disaster for letting its barge go wild with loose cables linking it to the tug. As the oil spill case in Mexico Gulf appeared, Koreans came to recall that Samsung Heavy Industries got off with a relatively light punishment.

A Naver blogger expresses a unpleasant feeling toward governments and companies' shirking their responsibilities:

지난 2007년 겨울 한국에서 발생했던 서해 태안 기름 유출
사건을 연상케 합니다…우리는 지난 태안 기름 유출 사건때 수많은 자원봉사자들의 덕에 빠르게 정상화를 찾아갔던 기억이 있습니다… 미국 정부도 이번 사건의 늑장대응에 대한 책임을 피하기는 쉽지 않을 것 같습니다. 열심히 BP에 모든
책임을 떠넘기고 있군요. 한국에서 태안 기름 유출을 일으킨 삼성 중공업이 고작 56억원의 손해 배상 책임을 판결 받은 것을 기억하니 무지하게 씁쓸합니다.

This [BP oil spill] reminds me of the Taean oil spill in winter 2007 in Korea. We made a fast recovery thanks to help of numerous volunteer workers…It seems it will be hard for the US government to wiggle its way out of the criticism on its belated response to this incident. Now the government tries to dump all responsibility onto BP. This reminds me of the Samsung Heavy Industries' Taean oil spill liability verdict, where Samsung got away with a penalty of only 5.6 billion Korean won [about USD 4.6 million]. All this makes me feel/taste bitter.

With its compensation cap limited to 5.6 billion Korean won, Samsung was fined only 30 million Korean won, or about USD 22,000.

Some blogger are approaching this issue from a realistic angle. One Naver blogger have posted speculation on affect the BP oil disaster will have on oil prices, himself predicting that it will surpass USD 100 dollar a barrel soon in this year.

Another OhMyNews blogger stressed the urgent need to seek a fundamental way to stop oil disasters from recurring:

궁극적으로 전세게가 하루빨리 원유 의존에서 벗어나 친환경 에너지로 하루빨리 바꿔야 하겠습니다…우리 모두 같은 지구촌 사람인이상 남의 일이 아닙니다.

The world needs to shift from its heavy dependency on the oil to eco-friendly energy use as early as possible…We all belong to the same earth, this is not the other's matter any more.

Koreans, after being burnt from their oil spill disaster, have expressed their sincere worries over the the endless spewing of the oil in the United States and the aftermath it will bring on a global level.

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