Tate 1840s GIF party submissions
Liberate Tate was delighted to accept the open invitation from Tate to submit GIFs for its animation collage installation at the 7 February 2014 Late at Tate Britain 1840s GIF party. Tate promised to display all the submissions it received so we submitted 16 – each evoking how works in Tate are tarnished by sponsorship from BP.
Remixing artworks from the 1840s room was poignant for us as it was where we started our performance Parts Per Million (November 2013), a work calling out the parts of carbon in the atmosphere in each of the chronologically hung rooms of the BP Walk Through British Art. Oil companies like BP are among the worst culprits for pushing us to the unsafe and catastrophic levels that we are now facing yet Tate continues to promote the fossil fuel economy, even corrupting the national collection to that effort.
25 Portraits in Oil (as part of Art Not Oil)
On 21 June 2014 25 performers scattered throughout the National Portrait Gallery simultaneously had oil poured over their faces in a dramatic protest performance against the gallery celebrating 25 years of sponsorship from BP. The performance took place just days ahead of the gallery’s BP Portrait Award 2014 prize ceremony.
25 Portraits in Oil was carried out by Liberate Tate with Reclaim Shakespeare Company, London Rising Tide and Shell Out Sounds – a number of groups from the Art Not Oil coalition of organisations which seeks an end to oil-industry sponsorship of the arts.
A film of the performance can be viewed here. Our friends at Platform released Picture This – A Portrait of 25 Years of BP Sponsorship – a report outlining of 25 of BP’s major environmental catastrophes, human rights violations, and backroom deals, one for each year since BP’s first NPG sponsorship in 1989, and acute analysis on the role of art in society in relation to ethics and sponsorship.
On 6 September 2014 over a hundred members and supporters of Liberate Tate carried out an unsolicited interpretation of Kazimir Malevich’s iconic Black Square in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. Hidden Figures was a dramatic reference to Tate’s refusal to disclose information about its controversial sponsorship relationship with BP.
In April 2014, the UK’s Information Commissioner ruled that Tate was breaking information law by refusing to remove a series of black squares covering information about the sponsorship deal in meeting minutes of Tate’s Ethics Committee and Board. Tate decided to take the case to the Information Tribunal and Hidden Figures was days before the court hearing on 18 September.
Malevich’s Black Square was on display as part of the Malevich exhibition at Tate Modern as Liberate Tate unfurled a 64 square metre black cloth. Performers gathered around the edges of the giant Black Square and in unison raised the material up into the air. Individual performers and many children then took turns to enter underneath the material making a series of shapes and poses while the material settled on top of them. A selection of pictures of Hidden Figures can be viewed here.
Liberate Tate is increasingly invited to present at events (for details of how to invite us see here). In 2014 we were pleased to speak at many events in London (including the V&A) and wider across the UK as well as internationally. Some of these appearances are filmed such as our performance lecture at the Performing Protest conference at Leuven University in Belgium which is viewable online in for clips (an introduction to Liberate Tate and three descriptions of performances: Human Cost, The Gift and Parts Per Million).
Supporting other voices: artists, Tate members and the wider public
In our work we seek to support artists, art lovers and other concerned members of the public to act to ensure that Tate ends its oil sponsorship remains open. In December we made available a record of key interventions on BP and Tate at the Tate Members AGM 2014. The representations of Tate members about BP should be made public by Tate, but given the art museum lacks such transparency we demonstrate there is no barrier to being open on member voice.
With others in Art Not Oil we have made available a petition for the public to sign to tell Tate and other UK cultural institutions to drop BP sponsorship on here: http://www.dropbp.org/
Archive and documentation
We continue to rework our archive and documentation which this year has resulted in a number of new outputs including a new video of The Gift which can be viewed online here.
A major victory as the year ends: British courts order Tate to disclose BP sponsorship figures
On 22 December 2014 an Information Rights Decision of the First Tier Tribunal of the UK court declared: “Tate shall disclose within 35 days from the date of this decision the BP sponsorship figures from 1990 to 2006 inclusive”.
Liberate Tate has been among the groups calling for this transparency. The Freedom of Information court ruling comes after a three-year legal fight that began with Tate’s refusal to disclose sponsorship information requested by a Liberate Tate member in December 2011. The case was taken up by Request Initiative, working with campaign group Platform, and law firm Leigh Day resulting in a major legal victory for the movement to break support of fossil fuel companies by public cultural institutions in a time of climate change.
Tate could appeal the Tribunal’s decision in January. The art museum would be wise not to – it’s time for payments to public institutions by oil companies to be in the open.
2015 – a big year for ending oil sponsorship of public arts and culture
2014 has proved to be yet another year of building momentum to end oil sponsorship of public culture with performances, protest, campaign actions and outreach of many groups advancing the cause with a backdrop of debate on and in the arts about ethics and corporate funding.
The context has also included the rise of the divestment movement with ever more public institutions reviewing their backing of the fossil fuel industry and breaking away from it.
In 2015 the effort to end oil sponsorship of the arts intensifies still further as a critical phase is entered.
Whilst the £10 million arts sponsorship deal by BP with four of London’s major arts institutions – Tate, Royal Opera House, British Museum and National Portrait Gallery – goes into early 2017, the processes for renewal of the sponsorship deal are gearing up. At the 2014 Tate Members AGM where BP dominated the agenda yet again Tate Director Nick Serota said the relationship would be reviewed in 2016. That makes 2015 a critical year.
Those working to get oil out of the arts have many challenges ahead. Yet the window for change is opening: the right pressure can mean decisions are made for cultural institutions to break free of Big Oil.
2015 will see the issue of climate change come into the mainstream spotlight again with renewed intensity as large-scale mass-mobilisation campaigns build for substantive political action and ambition at COP-UNFCCC in Paris in December.
The message is clear – no new deal between public cultural institutions and BP. The public arts and culture sector should be part of the solution on climate change not part of the problem.
Thanks to everyone who supported Liberate Tate in 2014 – we look forward to connecting with you in 2015 as the movement to free art from oil grows.
We have a number of performances under development … watch this space!