After Tate Gallery management was ordered by an Information Tribunal to give details of its BP sponsorship between 1990-2006, in a case brought by environmental campaigners, giving it 35 days to come forward with the information; this week marks a significant victory for activists campaigning for Tate to drop its controversial sponsorship deal with oil giant BP.
Previously Richard Aydon, Tate’s Head of Legal, admitted that Tate feared that “protests might intensify” if the raw facts of the sponsorship were to be revealed, The Arts Professional reported. But the information tribunal ruled against Tate, which was refusing to give details, claiming the information could intensify protests and harm its ability to raise money from other companies. Now the figures have been revealed and it is all rather shocking.
Tate has revealed that it received between £150,000 and £330,000 per year from BP between 1990 and 2006, a sum which represents around 0.5 percent of the institution’s annual budget. A laughably small sum of money from the global corporate giant.
The initial campaign was spearheaded by Platform and Liberate Tate, and has been a three-year-long legal battle between the institution and campaigners. The investigative journalist and co-founder of Request Initiative Brendan Montague challenged Tate in court in 2012 on behalf of Platform, asking for the disclosure of the amount the institution received annually from BP, as well as minutes of the meetings between Tate and BP when the partnership was formed.
But the institution repeatedly refused to disclose specific information pertaining to the arrangement, citing Freedom of Information exemptions until the Information Tribunal ruled in December 2014 that this use of the Freedom of Information Act was “mistaken” and “somewhat fanciful.” The body then gave Tate 35 days to disclose the amount it received from BP over the 16-year period, as well as some of the requested minutes.
In the minutes finally released this week and distributed by Platform, trustees acknowledged that the institution had taken “a public stance on sustainability” and that the “reputational risk” of maintaining links with BP was “significant.” A fact that seems wholy ironic in light of Tate’s chairman is former BP chief executive Lord Browne, it seems that Tate was clearly aware of the consequences of renewing its ties with BP.
But the institution disregarded these concerns and went ahead – renewing its sponsorship contract for five years in 2011. Tate director Nicholas Serota said at the time trustees had decided “it was the right thing to do.” Even in light of such a small sum of money weighed against Tate’s reputation. Surely a more suitable alternative should have been sought?
In its Monday statement, the museum explained, “Tate works with a wide range of corporate organisations and generates the majority of its funding from earned income and private sources. The support that these organisations give is extremely important and allows us to deliver a hugely successful and popular programme.”
The announcement is yet another blow for BP, whose share value has dropped by more than a third since its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Platform, however is set to continue its fight following this first victory – and it has been revealed that the activists will soon request the disclosure of the 2006-2012 figures. It only remains to be seen if Tate will fight to conceal what could amount to be yet another similarly paltry sum of money.