Top arts institutions opt to keep sponsorship ties with BP

Tate Britain and the British Museum are among four of the country’s top arts institutions who have announced that they are renewing their sponsorship deal with BP, despite protests over their connections with the oil giant.

The funding has attracted controversy since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, when 11 workers were killed and four million barrels of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

But the institutions, including the Royal Opera House and National Portrait Gallery, will now receive £10m between them from BP over the next five years.

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Protests over the links with the company have included the throwing of an oil-like substance on the entrance to Tate Britain as the gallery threw its summer party.

Earlier this month an 8,000-strong petition was handed to the Tate demanding an end to the sponsorship.

Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota said the Tate had been “thinking very hard” about the issue.

He said: “We looked at the question in 2010 and in 2011 in part in response to the letters and other communications we’ve had from individual members of the public and also groups.

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“But the board (of trustees)... felt it’s the right thing to continue with BP. BP have been great supporters of the arts.

“In general terms it is right I think that we should take money from oil companies as part of a general support for the arts... but I also believe it’s right to be taking money from BP.”

He added: “The fact that they had one major incident in 2010 does not mean we should not be taking support from them.”

National Portrait Gallery director Sandy Nairne said: “We absolutely respect the right of those who wish to make peaceful protests. We would always think about any sponsorship very carefully.”

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But he said that there was nothing but “unanimous clarity” within the board of trustees about continuing the support, adding: “Yes there will be opinions about oil companies... but that doesn’t take anything away from the great work that BP are doing across the arts.”

Royal Opera House chief executive Tony Hall said the issue had been “discussed very carefully and thoroughly”.

BP managing director Iain Conn said: “BP takes its commitments seriously and we care deeply about how we fulfil our role.”

He added: “We recognise the controversy at times of what BP does as a company but we’re very, very proud of the fact that we bring energy to the world and the world runs on energy.

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“We need to do it in the right way. But I make no excuses for the fact that we are at the forefront of providing energy to the world in the 21st century.”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said the Government continued “to support the arts” and to “encourage and support corporate philanthropy.”

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