Britain’s National Portrait Gallery ends deal with oil giant BP

A man is seen wearing masks while viewing paintings at the National Portrait Gallery. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

  • Since 1989, BP has sponsored the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious Portrait Award.
  • But the famous museum is the last cultural entity to end its sponsorship with BP.
  • The British Museum is also being criticized for a sponsorship deal with BP for a recently opened exhibition.

London’s famed National Portrait Gallery announced on Tuesday it was ending a controversial sponsorship deal with BP, the latest British cultural institution to turn its back on the energy giant.

BP has sponsored the museum’s prestigious Portrait Award since 1989.

“The Gallery is extremely grateful to BP for its long-term support of the BP Portrait Award,” director Nicholas Cullinan 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,” did he declare.

The recent spike in energy prices has brought massive profits for oil majors, including BP, as well as fierce criticism from environmentalists and politicians at a time when consumers find themselves with rising bills.

BP Senior Vice President Louise Kingham said the company was “tremendously proud of its role in championing British arts and culture for over 30 years”.

“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,” she said.

The National Portrait Gallery is currently undergoing refurbishment and is expected to reopen in 2023.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and the Scottish National Gallery also severed ties with BP, while the National Theater in London ended its sponsorship deal with Shell, under pressure from artists and environmental activists.

The British Museum is also being criticized for a sponsorship deal with BP for a recently opened exhibition at the prehistoric site of Stonehenge.

Julia P. Cluff