Tate gallery management have appeared before an Information Tribunal to defend their right to withhold details of the galleries’ financial relationship with oil company and Tate sponsor BP. Richard Aydon, Tate’s Head of Legal, admitted that Tate fears that “protests might intensify” if the raw facts of the sponsorship were to be revealed, The Arts Professional reports.
The tribunal is a follow up to news in March that the gallery was required to reveal details of internal discussions centring on the decision to renew BP sponsorship and reveal the amount of funds received by the oil giant. The ruling was part of a Freedom of Information request made by the art-activist campaign group Platform. “The gallery appealed against the ruling, and is claiming exemption under various clauses of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, including sections that relate to information that is likely to be prejudicial to a company’s commercial interests, and information that could endanger physical or mental health,” The AP added.
“Platform is reporting that the tribunal questioned the use of Tate Chair of Trustees John Browne as the “qualified person” used to authorise a particular exemption. Browne used to be the Chief Executive Officer at BP. Aydon was questioned as to whether or not there was a conflict of interest in using Browne to authorise such a decision. He admitted that they had discussed the possibility of this being a problem, but that Browne had assured them he could act in that capacity”.
Rosa Curling, a lawyer from solicitors Leigh Day representing Request Initiative, said: “It is clearly in the public interest that Tate discloses the amount of money it has received from BP. The fact BP has not consented to this information being revealed should not discourage Tate from doing the right thing. They should not be held hostage by their corporate sponsors in this way. Tate has a very clear ethical policy which requires them to take decisions openly and transparently. Despite this the Tate has refused to confirm how much money it has received from BP and has refused to allow the reasoning for its decision to continue its relationship with BP to be made public.”
In the coming weeks, a tribunal will decide whether or not Tate will have to reveal the information of its corporate sponsorship deals with BP, the Guardian has stated. For the last three years, environmental activists have led a campaign to publicise the extent of the oil company’s support of the museum, with artist collective and activist group Liberate Tate acting as a key member of the fight.