Oil funding of arts organisations has been one of the biggest and most publicised debates over the last 5years. Whilst the recession has meant more government funding cuts to the arts, organisations are increasingly having to seek funding from corporate and private donors, some of which have caused controversy.
Tate and BP
Tate recently came under fire for their sponsorship deal with BP, particularly in response to their three year long battle to keep the details of their agreement hidden. Tate had argued that divulging the details of their agreement would intensify protests and harm its ability to raise money from other companies.
However, the official details of the sponsorship deal were announced to the public in January 2015 after Tate lost a Freedom of Information Tribunal.
Over a period of 17years BP gave Tate £3.8mill which is an average of £224,000 a year. A sum that has been described as 'embarrassingly small' particularly when considering the amount of publicity and branding opportunities awarded in return.
Sponsorship secrecy makes BP seem more indispensable than they are and gives the company a 'veneer of respectability' and social consciousness.
Other sources include DCMS, Trusts and Foundations, and internal commerce (ticket sales, shop and cafe).
Demonstrations organised by 'Liberate Tate' take place once every year to disrupt Tate Modern and protest their BP sponsorship. Demonstrations were more frequent in the run up the tribunal and following Tate's appeal of the initial ruling to get them to release the sponsorship details and redacted statements from the minutes from ethics committee meetings and meetings with BP.
Ironically, Liberate Tate, the main protestors of the BP sponsorship were founded in 2010 during a workshop on Art and Activism at Tate Modern itself. This was in response to Tate trying to censor the workshop against protests against their organisation.
It is also interesting to consider the decision by Tate and other institutions to allow protests and demonstrations to continue within its walls. It can be argued that this has institutionalised the debate.
There are a number of other cultural organisations who receive funding from oil companies: The British Museum, National Gallery, The Royal Opera House, Science Museum, BFI, Natural History Museum, National Maritime Museum, National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Southbank Centre, V&A and the Wallace Collection.
However, Tate and the British Museum appear to have received the most backlash and negative publicity for their association.
"The arts have always benefited from funding from those whose company you wouldn't seek out. The elites, the wealthy, the church and state, Kings and Queens."- Tiffany Jenkins, Spiked online
For those interested in the debate, there is a detective flash mob taking place at the British Museum on the 29th March 3pm organised by BP or not BP.
1) Could the decision to force Tate to reveal the details of their sponsorship cause issues for raising funds in the future?
2) Why have Tate and British Museum received more negative press surrounding oil funding than Royal Opera House or National Portrait Gallery? Is it more the marketing of their association rather than that actual sponsorship itself that has generated debate?
3) "If they [Tate and other museums] can get money from Satan himself, they should take it" - Jonathan Jones, arts writer, The Guardian
Is privately sponsored art different from the publicly-funded variety?
Is there corporate money that you wouldn't take?
4) How do you perceive the decision of Tate and other institutions to allow demonstrations to take place within their walls? Could the institution claim ownership over the performance of protests and what does this mean for the debate itself?