Anish Kapoor, Sarah Lucas and others, demand that the National Portrait Gallery breaks with BP

Anish Kapoor, Sarah Lucas and others, demand that the National Portrait Gallery breaks with BP
Leading lights  -   Gallery owners
Art sponsorship and institutional donations have proven to be delicate and controversial matters, especially heightened in the past few years with the Sackler saga. Museums often rely on outside financial help to operate but at the same time such help often requires endorsing corporations, families or institutions that come with their own set of issues. The Sackler Trust recently froze all donations to UK art institutions after facing massive backlash for being linked to and profiting off of the US opioid crisis. The backlash included the National Portrait Gallery turning down a gift of £1 million from the Sackler Trust.

BP is another example of such controversial donor that has funded the arts for many years now. They were a major sponsor of the Tate for over 27 years before their partnership ended in 2017. This has led to a series of protests at other institutions that still receive support from the oil giant like the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. BP has been the sponsor behind the annual Portrait Award for 30 years now but its relationship with the historic London institutions is now facing the same backlash as institutions before it.

The latest development was an open letter signed by almost 80 artists blasting BP for its role in furthering the climate crisis and their responsibility to act. The letter, which was penned by Garry Hume, has signatures from notable artists like Anish Kapoor, Sarah Lucas, Antony Gormley, Alison Goldfrapp and many more.

In support of demanding that the gallery cuts ties with BP, the letter highlights the oil giant’s poor record and misleading marketing regarding its funding of renewable energy. “Despite its acknowledgement that climate change is a problem, and the prominence of BP’s green credentials in its advertising, the company is choosing to invest 97% of its available capital in fossil fuel exploitation and a mere 3% in renewables.”

“Unfortunately, BP’s continued sponsorship of the Portrait Award is lending credence to the company’s misleading assurance that it’s doing all it can, and so we, as artists, feel we must speak up.”

The letter also carries other clear demands asking that the National Portrait Gallery commits to: “not renew the contract with BP when it expires in 2022”, “start looking for alternative funding for the Portrait Award”, and “as an immediate first step, remove the BP representative from the judging panel.”

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