The National Portrait Gallery ending its relationship with BP is a victory for direct action

National Portrait Gallery & Anti-BP protesters

On 22 February, the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) announced its sponsorship with British Petroleum (BP) is at an end. The relationship with the multinational oil and gas company had lasted over 30 years. According to Culture Unstained, its termination is a result of “pressure from leading artists, campaigners and public”. The NPG said the:

partnership will not extend beyond December 2022, when their current contract comes to an end.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Galleries of Scotland have already ended their relationship with the fossil fuel giant. This followed a threatened boycott from students and published scientific evidence on the dangers of the climate emergency.

The move is being hailed as a victory for years of direct action campaigning:


Ending the relationship

Fossil fuel research group Culture Unstained (CU) believes that the ending of this relationship is a result of “years of growing opposition to BP’s sponsorship of the Gallery”. The group feels the NPG announcement puts pressure on:

the British Museum to end its BP sponsorship deal after it was revealed just last week that the Director has already been seeking to renew the controversial partnership, and over 300 archaeologists came out in opposition to the renewal.

Furthermore, CU believes:

the tide is turning on the role of fossil fuels in public life.

Years of campaigning

This announcement is a moment for direct action campaigners to celebrate. It follows years of organising by activists against the involvement of a fossil fuel company with a cultural institution:

In June 2019, artist Gary Hume wrote to the NPG demanding it end its relationship with BP. Hume wrote:

Either we distance ourselves from one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers and embrace the challenge of decarbonising, or we continue to give legitimacy to BP and its business activities that are seriously exacerbating the problem.

Not the first, but others must follow

These direct action campaigns have severed the links between a fossil fuel giant and cultural institutions in the UK. But it’s not about saving cultural institutions from the scourge of fossil fuel companies. It’s about saving the planet. So several other organisations need to follow and divest from businesses that are slowly killing us and our planet.

Featured image via Amy-Leigh Barnard – Unsplash@RealMediaGB- YouTube Screengrab

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  • Show Comments
    1. Thinking about the awe experienced and even love felt by astronauts for the spaceship Earth below, I wonder: If a large portion of the planet’s most freely-polluting corporate CEOs, governing leaders and over-consuming/disposing individuals rocketed far enough above the earth for a day’s (or more) orbit, while looking down, would have a sufficiently profound effect on them to change their apparently unconditional political/financial support of Big Fossil Fuel?

      We do know that industry and fossil-fuel friendly governments can tell when a very large portion of the populace has been too tired and worried about feeding/housing themselves or their family, and the continuing COVID-19 virus variants — all while on insufficient income — to criticize them for whatever environmental damage their policies cause/allow, particularly when not immediately observable. And that global mass-addiction to fossil fuel products undoubtedly helps keep the average consumer quiet about the planet’s greatest polluter, lest they feel and/or be publicly deemed hypocritical.

      1. [Continued] … With the unprecedented man-made global-warming-related extreme weather events, etcetera, I wonder how many fossil-fuel industry CEOs and/or their beloved family members may also be caught in climate change harm’s way? Assuming the CEOs are not sufficiently foolish to believe their descendants will somehow always evade the health repercussions related to their industry’s environmentally reckless decisions, I wonder whether the unlimited-profit objective/nature is somehow irresistible to those business people, including the willingness to simultaneously allow an already squeezed consumer base to continue so — or be squeezed even further?

        It brings to my mind the allegorical fox stung by the instinct-abiding scorpion while ferrying it across the river, leaving both to drown.

        Still, there must be a point at which the lopsided status quo — where already large corporate profits are maintained or increased while many people are denied even basic securities, including environmental — can/will end up hurting big business’s own economic interests. I can imagine that a healthy, strong and large consumer base — and not just very wealthy consumers — are needed.

    2. Yes. Common sense and Humanity will have to be forced on some of these entities. Keep going, I feel a smidgen of change for the better. We need to move faster in curtailing the use/need for Planet damaging ways. Alternatives must be found, and more solution coupled with Local Action Bodies.

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