After 30 years, the National Portrait Gallery in London cuts ties with BP –

London’s National Portrait Gallery will cut ties with British Petroleum, ending the oil giant’s sponsorship of the gallery’s annual Portrait Award after more than 30 years. According to a statement from a BP spokesperson, their contract will not extend beyond December, when it is due to expire.

The oil company’s sponsorship of the Portrait Award has been the subject of controversy for years, with frequent protests at the awards ceremony. In 2019, Extinction Rebellion activists doused themselves in fake oil in the main lobby of the Ondaatje Wing gallery, where several BP-sponsored artworks are on display. That same year, dozens of British artists, including Sarah Lucas, Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor, signed a letter asking the gallery to end the partnership because of BP’s “role in deepening the climate crisis”. . In 2020, BP withdrew from the award jury for the first time in 23 years.

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The BP Portrait Award is on a two-year hiatus while the National Portrait Gallery’s St Martin’s Place site is closed for a major refurbishment.

“The gallery is extremely grateful to BP for its long-term support of the BP Portrait Prize,” Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a statement. “His funding for the prize has fostered creativity, encouraged portrait painting for over 30 years and given a platform to artists around the world, while inspiring and entertaining audiences across the UK.”

BP leader Louise Kingham said in a statement: ‘We are extremely proud of our role in championing British arts and culture for over 30 years, but today’s BP is a very different from when we started our partnership with the National Portrait Gallery. .” He promised that the company would reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and become an “integrated energy company”.

The news follows passionate campaigns for UK arts institutions to divest from fossil fuel philanthropy. A few London venues answered the call: the Royal Shakespeare Company severed its ties with BP in 2019, while the Tate ended its partnership in 2017.

Last weekend at the British Museum, climate activists from the group BP or Not BP posed as museum staff and presented satirical “Stonehenge drilling plans”, a reference to a Stonehenge blockbuster in the museum which received funding from the oil company. The protest came after published emails revealed British Museum director Hartwig Fischer was ‘pursuing the renewal of the museum’s controversial sponsorship deal with oil and gas giant BP despite huge opposition to the partnership’ , BP or Not BP said in a statement.

Over the past decade, scrutiny of partnerships between arts institutions and private companies has intensified around the world. Faced with pressure from artists and activists to sever ties with the Sackler family, longtime owners of Purdue Pharmaceuticals accused of exacerbating the opioid epidemic in the United States, several major institutions, including the Louvre , the Guggenheim Museum and the Tate, have announced that they will not. no longer accepts money from the Sackler Trust.

Meanwhile, the Sackler name has been quietly removed from public view: Last January, the Serpentine Galleries became the latest institution to remove the disgraced family’s name from its building. The institution, which runs two spaces in central London, has deleted the family from its online exhibition archive and renamed its second location, formerly known as the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, the Serpentine North Gallery.

Julia P. Cluff