BP abandoned by the National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery has announced the end of its partnership with BP, becoming the latest institution in the world of art and culture to distance itself from the oil giant.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Tate have already ended sponsorship deals with BP following environmental campaigns launched by artists and employees.

BP has been the main sponsor of the National Portrait Gallery’s annual portrait award since 1989, when it took over from the tobacco company John Player & Sons.


The award did not take place this year or last as the gallery’s central London building is closed for redevelopment.

In a joint statement, the gallery and BP confirmed that they would not be renewing their current partnership when its contract expires in December.

Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: “The Gallery is extremely grateful to BP for their long-term support of the BP Portrait Award.

“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.

“The Gallery is committed to working with artists and continuing to promote portraiture and we look forward to developing the future Portrait Prize as we plan to reopen in 2023.”


Louise Kingham, Senior Vice President of BP, said: ‘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 company. the one where we started our partnership with the National Portrait Gallery.

“As we go to net zero by 2050 and help the world get there too, we must look for new ways to best use our talent, experience and resources.”

Campaign group Culture Unstained described the announcement as “clearly a vote of no confidence in BP’s business”.

Co-director Jess Worth added: “The company has spent 30 years painting itself an image as a responsible philanthropist, but it’s fast running out of places to clean up its toxic image.”

The Royal Shakespeare Company and National Galleries Scotland have already severed ties with BP, while the National Theater has severed ties with Shell.

The debate surrounding oil company sponsorship of the arts has intensified in recent years, with actor Sir Mark Rylance resigning from the Royal Shakespeare Company in June 2019 in protest at his sponsorship by BP.

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Alex Green is the AP’s senior entertainment reporter.

Julia P. Cluff