Tensions ran high at three major museums last week as activists took to creatively campaigning against oil-sponsorship of the arts and cultural institutions.
Security staff at the BP-sponsored British Museum confiscated bow-ties, wigs, waistcoats, flyers and cardboard signs from forty performers from campaign group BP or not BP before they staged a “rigged gameshow” called “Who Wants to Pay a Billionaire?”.
According to the group’s website. the “oily cashmob” performance sought to address the “disgraceful fact that BP receives hundreds of millions of pounds of subsidy from taxpayers each year, then has the cheek to give a small fraction of that amount back to institutions like the British Museum”.
At Amsterdam’s Shell-sponsored Van Gogh Museum seven members of the Fossil Free Culture group stood barefoot and dressed in white in the Museum’s foyer and drank black liquid from scallop shells. The protest sought to highlight the Museum’s relationship with the Dutch oil giant and resulted in the arrest of three activists after they ignored requests to leave the building.
To cap off what has been coined a “global fortnight of action”, activist group Libérons Le Louvre released a flock of origami birds at the Musée du Louvre in Paris to protest Total’s sponsorship of the Museum.
A spokesperson from the British Museum said items were confiscated from the BP or not BP protesters prior to their performance because the Museum did not know what they were going to do with them. “The Museum allows peaceful protest on site as long as there is no risk to the collection, staff or visitors”, the spokesperson said.
BP or not BP campaigner, Chris Garrard, told AP that he was concerned by the British Museum’s response to the group’s performance. “There should be room for peaceful freedom of expression and for museums to be open to controversy rather than attempting to control it or shut it down”, Garrard said.
BP decided to end its 26-year sponsorship of Tate galleries in 2016 citing a “challenging business environment”. In the same year the oil giant renewed a five-year sponsorship deal worth £7.5 million with the British Museum, Royal Opera House, National Portrait Gallery and Royal Shakespeare Company despite concerns that it may have inappropriately influenced the Museums’ operations to advance its own interests in oil extraction.