Vivienne Westwood and Bianca Jagger Urge British Museum to Drop BP Sponsorship

Activists marked a huge success when Tate dropped BP in March.

The British Museum welcomed 6.7 million visitors in 2014/15. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The British Museum welcomed 6.7 million visitors in 2014/15. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Hartwig Fischer, new director of London’s British Museum.<br>Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Hartwig Fischer, new director of London’s British Museum.
Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Hot on the heels of the announcement that Tate will drop its controversial sponsorship deal with BP in 2017, a host of 100 cultural luminaries are urging the British Museum to end its links with the oil giant too.

In a letter sent to the Guardian, the signatories—which include actors Mark Ruffalo, Emma Thompson, and Mark Rylance; fashion designer Vivienne Westwood; writers Margaret Atwood and Naomi Klein; cultural theorist Mieke Bal and TJ Demos; and Bianca Jagger—write:

We congratulate Dr Hartwig Fischer on his new role as director of the British Museum, and would like to take this early opportunity to raise an ethical issue of great concern to us all.

[…] BP’s sponsorship contract with the museum is coming to an end this year. While governments in Paris committed to transition away from fossil fuels, BP remains a barrier to progress.

[…] Its operations are affecting lives and livelihoods across the world. The company was recently hit with the biggest criminal fine in US history for its gross negligence in causing the Deepwater Horizon spill.

[…] To receive sponsorship from BP is to condone these business practices. […] We urge Dr Fischer to follow Tate’s lead in not renewing this contract, and to seek funding from sources more in line with the museum’s values and what is needed to ensure a stable future.

The letter is addressed to the new director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, who is taking up his post, succeeding Neil MacGregor at the helm of the museum, today.

Activist groups are surely hoping that Fischer will be more receptive to their demands than MacGregor, who, according to the Guardian, defended the museum’s deal with BP saying: “What would you want companies to do with their profits? Do you want them to spend them in a way that benefits the public or not?”

The British Museum welcomed 6.7 million visitors in 2014/15. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The British Museum welcomed 6.7 million visitors in 2014/15.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The letter is accompanied by an online petition, launched by the PCS Union and the Art Not Oil coalition, which lists a number of reasons why the BP sponsorship should be dropped, including: “It tops the list of firms lobbying against effective climate policies in Europe,” “In countries such as Iraq, Egypt, Russia, Azerbaijan, and West Papua, it is fuelling conflict and repression and undermining workers’ rights,” and “It dodges taxes and takes billions more in UK tax breaks, in this time of supposed austerity. It donates only a tiny proportion back to the arts, in return for high-profile branding.”

Meanwhile, a British Museum spokesperson told the Guardian: “BP is one of the British Museum’s most longstanding corporate partners, supporting the museum since 1996. The British Museum is exceptionally grateful to BP for their loyal and ongoing support, which has allowed the museum to bring world cultures to a global audience through hugely popular exhibitions and their associated public programs.”


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