Members call for Tate to drop BP at Tate Members Annual General Meeting 2014

  • Serota says Tate Ethics Committee and Trustees will review BP sponsorship in 2016
  • Members call for Tate to announce in 2015 – ahead of December UN climate summit – that there will be no new deal with BP
  • Tate Members AGM 2014 recommendation that there be a Tate member place on art museum’s Ethics Committee to be taken forward
  • Tate urged to respond to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s plea that with climate change our global enemy cultural institutions cut ties to fossil fuel industry
  • Jon Snow accepts Liberate Tate donated print for Tate Members Room in recognition of member voice on BP

Tate Members Calling On Tate To Drop BPTate support of BP again dominated the Tate Members Annual General Meeting this year – for the fifth year running – with members calling once again for Tate trustees to demonstrate leadership and break its support of the fossil fuel industry and cut its ties with BP.

Liberate Tate makes available the following as a record of key interventions on BP and Tate at the Tate Members AGM 2014 in the interests of transparency and to aid institutional accountability and to support members. We do so noting that Tate itself has not yet recorded in any public record the representations of its members about BP at Tate Members AGMs and that this, in itself, is a matter of member and wider concern. 

BP-related interventions at the Tate Members Annual General Meeting 2014

BP has paid Tate to promote the oil company since 1990

BP has paid Tate to promote the oil company since 1990

Tate Member [1]: “In the course of last year there has been the continued promotion of the interests of the fossil fuel industry through the relation of Tate with BP.  More and more members are not experiencing the ‘enhanced member experience’ Tate is trying to bring about. Many members are raising their voice and there has been another year of disquiet about the relationship.”

“In a year’s time, when we meet again as members at the Tate AGM 2015, so too will over 190 governments be meeting, in Paris looking to have a global agreement on climate change at the UN Conference. Already we have seen institutions around the world breaking away from fossil fuel companies both financially, but also with economic, social and cultural capital. There is an extraordinary window coming up for Tate to demonstrate leadership and to say it will not have a new deal with BP.”

“Given member disquiet will Tate Members Council and Tate take forward its members’ interest as a moment of leadership to say: ‘that’s it, it’s over we’ve had a relationship with BP but it’s over?’ Tate is going to be on the wrong side of history if it does not do it next year.”

Jon Snow: Nick Serota may wish to answer a bit later. We [Tate Members Council] have made representations to the Board. They are reviewing the matter. The thing that would help more than any other would be if you can bring in another sponsor who can wield the power that you are discussing.

Tate Member [1]: “Members give over ten times as much money as the very company whose name you have banded right over Tate Britain so please let’s not belittle the financial interest as we have members have already put in place…  Jon Snow: I can tell you of an exciting thing and that is that there will be a rehang of Tate Modern – both in the new and in the old – in the lead up to the new opening and that will be branded ‘Tate Members’ as we would have paid for it.”

Tate Member [2]: “Tate members are the main contributors that allow Tate to be as successful as it is, but we still do not have any transparency about BP. As a Tate member, I am disgusted that this is not transparent and that we do not know how much  BP contributes to this establishment.”

“Considering we are members are contributing all this money for this art gallery to function as well and as amazingly as it does, in today’s society transparency is what we demand as members. We want to know how much BP are giving this establishment and what they get back for that. And they must get something back donating what we thing they donating – half a million, a million, we don’t even know how much they are giving!”

Serota: “BP first began to support Tate in 1990. In 2012 an agreement was reached between the Trustees of the Tate and BP for a 5 year sponsorship of the displays at Tate Britain: 2012 to 2016. The trustees will review the question as to whether or not they will renew the approach to BP in 2016.”

“Last year a number of members resigned at the Tate AGM and the other members asked me to report to the strong feelings of members expressed at the meeting and I did so at the Board meeting in January. The Trustees have asked the Ethics Committee – which is a sub-committee of the Board – to keep the matter of BP sponsorship under review.”

“The Ethics Committee once a year looks at all corporate memberships but it does not decide at that moment to revoke an existing membership. They will consider the matter of BP’s support for Tate again in 2016.”

“The second question that has arisen is about the amount of money that BP put in to Tate. Tate and the trustees are bound by a confidentiality clause with BP about the precise amount – a binding agreement entered into in good faith in 2012.”

“Trustees will obviously have a chance to consider that matter in the future. If every sponsorship that we received went into the public domain it would make more difficult any new sponsorships to the Tate. Just imagine going to Sotheby’s or Christie’s with the other knowing how much a close competitor had paid for a sponsorship. We would find it very difficult to raise the levels of sponsorship in the ways we need to do.”

Tutu says: "We can encourage more of our cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil-fuel industry."

Tutu says: “We can encourage more of our cultural institutions to cut their ties to the fossil-fuel industry.”

Tate Member [3]: “I’ve been a Tate member for over four years now, and moments spent in these galleries have been some of the most joyful of my life – thank you for that. The reason why I wanted to come today was because of an article written in September by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I’d like to read out a short section of it:

‘I fought Apartheid. Now climate change is our global enemy… Reducing our carbon footprint is not just a technical scientific necessity; it has also emerged as the human rights challenge of our time… The most devastating effects of climate change – deadly storms, heat waves, droughts, rising food prices and the advent of climate refugees – are already being visited on the world’s poor. Those who have no involvement in creating the problem are the most affected, while those with the capacity to arrest the slide dither, it is a deep injustice… Just as we argued in the 1980s that those who conducted business with apartheid South Africa were aiding and abetting an immoral system, we can say that nobody should profit from the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the burning of fossil fuels. We can encourage more of our universities and municipalities, foundations, corporations, individuals and cultural institutions to cut their ties to teh fossil fiel industry.

I find this very persuasive and very moving, and it’s what made me want to come here tonight.

“I know that this issue is very complex issue and is incredibly difficult to raise money for the arts, especially in a climate of austerity. But my argument would be that, following this article and the cultural conversation about it, that the Tate’s current position – i.e. t we don’t take money from tobacco companies, we don’t take it from arms dealers, but we do from fossil fuel companies – has become outdated.”

“And, contrary to Mr Snow’s assertion earlier, there is an alternative. There is a massive global divestment movement, aimed at redirecting the money spent on fossil fuels into developing long-term, clean and equitable energy solutions. More than 800 global investors – including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, heir to the greatest oil fortune of all time – have pledged to withdraw a total of $50bn from fossil fuel investments over the next five years. Their president said recently: ‘We are quite convinced that if he [John D Rockefeller] were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.’”

“Does the Tate have a response to Desmond Tutu and is it willing to join the divestment movement and cut its ties to the fossil fuel industry?”

Serota: “I can clearly see that this is a sincerely held view, and it’s one that any one individual may well hold. I will undoubtedly convey it, as I will others in this room, that you would like to see the Tate trustees not renew the Tate BP sponsorship when the time comes and I am sure they will consider those views very carefully. They will need to come to a decision based on what they believe to be in the interests of the institution as a whole – which is not to say that they will want to set aside the views that you have just expressed.”

Tate Member [4]: “On member participation and increased member role within governance, would Tate Members Council consider recommending the idea of a Tate member being elected here each to be appointed to the Tate Ethics committee? The Ethics Committee already has three trustees on it but has co-opted two  ex-Trustees as well, why not appoint suitable Tate members through nomination of the membership itself?”

Serota: “That’s a perfectly responsible suggestion – the Trustees do co-opt individuals, they have done so – and I will put that proposal to them.”

Tate Member [5]: “In response to Mr Snow’s reply to the earlier question, I would say that it is very difficult to suggest alternative fundraising opportunities if you say can we get rid of this  sponsorship that a lot of people object to and the response is “where are you going to find the money’ with the confidentiality agreement in place. Without knowing how much money we have to raise that kind of response is reductive as there is no way of going to fund managers with large amounts of obviously clean money and saying ‘please can you replace the BP money, and, by the way, sorry we don’t know how much that is, it could be.. Snow: fund managers with obviously clean money that’s quite an achievement!… Tate Member [5]

I did wink as I said it! Snow: “I couldn’t see that!”…. Tate Member [5]: “Do you accept that this debate is being completely undercut by the confidentiality agreement and is there any way of attempting to renegotiate that agreement or at least to bring those things up for review?”

Serota: “I think this debate is about principles not about the sum of money. I actually think the size of the money from BP is besides the point. Even if we were even taking £50 from BP and putting their name up there would be plenty of people in this room that would not want not want us to do so.”

Member [5]: “I quite agree, but as a side point it is a salient one and it is an action that could be taking in order to strengthen ethical and principled case which we currently can’t.”

Snow: “We, the Tate Members Council, recognise there is a significant part of the membership who are really exercised by the BP issue. We have represented that to the Trustees. And that is why they have said they will review the entire issue for 2016….that means that has to happen in 2015 for it to be in place for 2016…. Serota: “I don’t think the review will take place in 2015..” Snow: “The review will take place in 2016. That is the answer they are giving. I don’t see, at this moment, how we can take this very much further.”

Member [5]: “In the future, is there a chance that Tate members might be brought on board at a decision-making stage, not necessarily at the vetting stage, but some kind of pre-consultation in a more public way for future sponsorship deals where large corporations are brought before the Tate membership to say: do you think this corporation is a reasonable sponsor for the Tate? Do you think that would be a good idea to implement?

Serota: “I think it would be an almost impossible idea to implement because the number of sponsors we have and the diversity of the members. I am not quite sure what criteria you would use. It is for the Trustees to run Tate not the members – the members can make a very, very valuable contribution. As Jon and I have said, and as a helpful suggestion that has come from the floor, there are ways in which members could come closer to the Tate and not  be as distant as they have been. There was a time when Tate Friends, as they were, played an even larger role within the Tate because of the support that they gave which was valuable. I think that over the last 20 or 30 years perhaps a distance has grown between the organisation of the Tate and the membership and I’d like to see it brought closer together.”

Jon Snow, Chair of Tate Members, revealed the next rehang will be branded 'Tate Members' .

Jon Snow, Chair of Tate Members, revealed the next rehang will be branded ‘Tate Members’ .

Snow: “And that is something we [Tate Members Council] are currently involved in active dialogue about – to bring the members closer in to the governance of Tate.”

“We could go on talking about BP all evening. We have marked that there has been a significant contribution from members at the AGM questioning the BP issue. And we have been told that there will be a review in 2016 and that that will make a decision as to whether to continue or discontinue. That is the power of [Tate] Members at the moment – we don’t have the power to do anything else – we have represented that to the Trustees. They know that a significant number of members are concerned and I’m afraid to sat that we need to lave it there, otherwise we could be here all night.”

Liberate Tate donated a print to Tate Members for the Members Room

Liberate Tate donated a print to Tate Members for the Members Room

Member [6]: “I do have a question about BP but I can not ask it, if there is not time as what I also is a seasonal gift. It is a seasonal gift as it was the Turner Prize this week. I want to offer this gift to the member, from members, and I’d like to ask you Jon Snow, to accept it in behalf of the members as a group. It is a painting by Conrad Atkinson who has 10 artworks in the Tate collection. He offered  prints to raise funds for the group Liberate Tate who have made a series of unsanctioned performances and interventions at Tate in opposition to BP.  At Liberate Tate we thought it might be a good contribution to the Members Room – to have some discussion point of the issue in that space.”

Snow: “I’m extremely touched that you have gone to these enormous lengths – not least the frame which is actually rather quality! It is number 36 of an edition of 75. It is on display! Thank you very much indeed.”

In the course of questions one member did raise the point that “not every single member is opposed to BP sponsorship”. This is indeed the case, as is the fact that many members may not be aware of the BP relationship. What is clear is that Tate member opposition continues to grow – Tate Members Chair Jon Snow underlined this by acknowledging that there is a significant part of the membership that do want Tate to end its relationship with BP.Every Year Tate Members

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