Liberate Tate Plans Mass Protest Over BP Sponsorship

Liberate Tate stages a protest at Tate Britain (2011). Photo: Amy Scaife, courtesy Corbis.

Artist collective cum activist group Liberate Tate is inviting all those willing to take part in a mass performance calling for the UK institution to disclose how much money it receives from one of its sponsors, the oil giant BP.

The performance will take place in a yet-to-be-disclosed Tate location on Saturday 6, 2014, less than two weeks before museum representatives are due to appear before the information tribunal.

In March 2014, the Information Commissioner ruled that Tate had to disclose the minutes of committee meetings during which the controversial sponsorship was discussed – as requested by Request Initiative, acting on behalf of Platform, a group sharing Liberate Tate’s goal to see an end to the BP sponsorship. 

The Information Commissioner also ruled that a small part of this information was exempt under Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which states that information doesn’t need to be disclosed if it “constitutes a trade secret,” or is likely to “prejudice the commercial interest of any person.” Both decisions are subject to appeal – the first by the requester, the second by Tate. 

Little details have been announced as to what exactly the performance will entail, but Liberate Tate’s Yasmin De Silva revealed that it would be a reference to Malevitch’s Black Square (1915), the star exhibit of Tate’s current show of the Russian Suprematist’s work.

“There are hundreds of interpretations of Malevich’s iconic Black Square,” she said. “Our performance references Tate’s culture of secrecy that stifles vital debate about its controversial relation with the oil company BP.”

“It’s important the public can know how much money Tate is getting from BP because it shows how much of an option it is for Tate to drop that sponsorship,” she continued. “We suspect it’s a pretty small amount of money compared to Tate’s overall budget, and that’s why Tate is fighting tooth and nail to stop the figure from being made public.”

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