Academics denounce BP sponsorship of British Museum in open letter – ARTnews.com
In an open letter published on Wednesday, dozens of academics and museum workers denounced the British Museum in London for its continued financial deal with oil company BP, saying the sponsorship is ill-suited to a world facing the threat of climate change. The letter comes as the institution’s deal with BP is about to expire, leaving open the question of whether the British Museum will renew it.
“Refusing further BP sponsorship would send a strong signal that fossil fuel companies, such as tobacco and arms companies, are no longer welcome in cultural life, âthe letter read. “By lowering BP’s ‘social license to operate’, it would help support our society’s transition away from fossil fuels.”
Calling the BP sponsorship an “oil company reputation management strategy,” academics also wrote: “A rapid transition away from fossil fuels is crucial if we are to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis in the next century. “
A spokesperson for the British Museum did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The BP sponsorship of the British Museum has been a perpetual source of contention among artists, curators, archaeologists and activists, with groups like BP or Not BP? leading a flood of protests at the museum in recent years. In 2020, BP or not BP? brought a Trojan horse to the British Museum to protest an exhibit on Troy which had received funding from the oil giant.
After the protest, members of the PCS union, which represents workers at the institution, and a former administrator, Ahdaf Soueif, joined in the appeal to the British Museum to sever ties with BP. Hartwig Fischer, the museum’s director, said at the time that the British Museum needed funding to continue to mount its offerings, and that the end of the sponsorship was “not a contribution to solving the climate crisis” .
Wednesday’s letter was launched by Natasha Reynolds, a researcher at the University of Bordeaux in France. Among its signatories are Nadia Maria Kristensen, curator at the National Museum of Denmark, and Jody Joy, curator at the Archeology and Anthropology Museum at the University of Cambridge and former curator at the British Museum.
The British Museum is not the only British institution to have been the subject of controversy for receiving money from oil companies. In 2016, the Tate Museums Network said it would no longer receive funding from BP, ending its 26-year relationship, and in 2020, the Southbank Center, a London arts complex that includes the Hayward Gallery , severed ties with Shell.