Activists Target British Museum’s Links With Oil Giant BP

Anti BP Oil Activists staged a demonstration inside London’s leading museum yesterday in protest of the institutions continuing sponsorship with the energy giant BP.  A group of at least twenty demonstrators organised a “disobedient exhibition” inside the covered central courtyard on the busiest day of the Easter Holiday. Dozens of black-clad activists entered the court at around 3pm and arranged themselves to spell out the word “no”

The exhibition titled “A History of BP in 10 Objects”, a play on “A History of the World in 100 Objects”, a recent British Museum show.  ” featured objects sent from all over the world by communities impacted by BP’s environmental destruction and human rights abuses, including crude oil from the Gulf Coast spill,” the activists said in a statement.  They claimed BP’s support — largely focused on special exhibitions — represented 0.8 percent of the central London museum’s annual income.  Last September, the self-styled “theatrical campaign group”, named “BP Or Not BP?”, held a similar protest inside the museum with demonstrators dressed in black to resemble an oil slick, forming the word “No”. 

Mel Evans, a member of the art collective Liberate Tate, agreed, adding that BP wanted to “artwash its image”. She pointed out that her group had established that BP contributed an average of £224,000 per year to the Tate Modern, a small percentage of its total income. “It is barely any money … It is so small, so it is a small decision.”

This latest protest came as 91 figures including actors Emma Thompson and Mark Rylance, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and campaigner Bianca Jagger signed a letter to the Guardian newspaper about the issue. They urged the museum’s new director,  Hartwig Fischer, who takes up his post on Monday, not to renew BP’s sponsorship deal and instead “seek funding from sources more in line with the museum’s values”. Earlier in the day, Liberate Tate held a performance at the Tate Modern. The demonstrators, from the Art Not Oil Coalition, said they would carry out further actions in the near future.

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