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BP to end sponsorship of Tate museums due to profit losses


As oil prices have collapsed over the course of the last year, BP has slashed thousands of jobs and liquidated investments, and now will end its longtime sponsorship of the Tate museums, much to the glee of many London-based activists. Environment-conscious activist groups have long been critical of the relationship between the Tate museums and BP, particularly since BP’s catastrophic Gulf oil spill in 2010. However, it seems that the dissolution of the BP-Tate partnership was a purely financial decision spurred by falling oil prices rather than an effect of activist efforts. Stanley Reed has [the story for the New York Times,][1] in partial below.

LONDON — BP has decided to end its 26-year sponsorship of the Tate group of art museums, one of Britain’s most high-profile cultural institutions, the energy giant and Tate said on Friday.

The sponsorship has been the target of protesters for years, including after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 when activists poured a slick substance on the steps of Tate Britain, but a BP spokesman said the oil company was ending the arrangement purely for financial reasons.

The spokesman, David Nicholas, said it was “a commercial decision” prompted by the collapse in oil prices which has led to a decline in BP’s profit since the summer of 2014. Last month, BP reported a $6.5 billion loss for 2015.

Mr. Nicholas said that at a time when BP was cutting thousands of jobs and slashing investment, “our arts sponsorship program does not have an exemption.”

Activists who have protested the funding described the decision as a major victory that could pressure other cultural institutions to end their corporate ties.

“We’re thrilled with the news Tate is rid of BP,” Yasmin de Silva, a member of one of the protest group Liberate Tate, said in a statement. “About 30 years ago, the tide turned on tobacco sponsorship, and now the same thing is happening to the oil industry.”

*Image of Liberate Tate action via AP


The sad thing is that it seems that it isn’t Tate that got rid of BP, but BP dumped Tate. If great museums keep seeing themselves as great corporations that are a part of the market system and not as educational institutions that serve to the greater goal of enriching the human soul trough art, this kind of embarrassment will keep on happening. Certainly art does not need the money that comes from those who sole interest is to take from the Earth for their own selfish interest and, if it does, it means that something is utterly wrong. I believe that genuine art has nothing to do with destruction and greed.


Just to play devil’s advocate here: what if BP’s sponsorship of Tate really just extends to no-strings-attached money and a little strategic logo placing? I’m not condoning the sponsorship, but I also don’t think that Tate is endorsing BP’s environmental destruction by taking their money… I know others see it differently, though.


I see your point, and agree with it to some extent. However, these days, I think that when it comes to money, there’s no such thing as ‘no-strings-attached’. Maybe the best thing to do was to take BP’s money before any knowable misconduct of the company (closing one eye) and after such thing happened, then probably best to call the partnership off.