£224,000 of ‘BP money’ thrown from top of Tate Britain into its oil company sponsored galleries

PRESS RELEASE 31 January 2015 – For Immediate Release

Art collective Liberate Tate has today thrown £224,000 of specially designed BP/Tate money from the Members Room inside Tate Britain, down into the main entrance of the galleries branded The BP Walk Through British Art. The performance, titled ‘The Reveal’ was carried out days after Tate has been forced by the British courts to reveal that the amount of sponsorship money it received from BP was an average of £240,000 a year between 1990 and 2006.

Bank of Tate £20 - CopyShortly after 10am, seven people inside the Tate Britain Members Room, clothed entirely in black encircled the upper rotunda in the centre of the room. After donning black veils, the performers began to slowly throw bank notes into the central space, for them to flutter down into the main entrance hall. After all £224,000 had been thrown, the performers silently left the building. The bank notes featured the head of Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota on one side, and the former BP CEO and Chair of Tate Trustees John Browne on the other. The ‘Bank of Tate’ notes each state: ‘Tate promises to preserve the social licence to operate of oil company BP’.

Jane Shellac, who was one of the performers, said:

“Tate has fought so hard to keep the amount of money it’s getting from BP secret because everyone thought it was going to be much larger. Our performance today is another way to imagine what BP money looks like inside the gallery. Newly revealed minutes show Tate acknowledges a growing and significant reputational risk of it being associated with one of the most environmentally damaging companies in the world. We now know that it’s entirely possible for Tate to drop BP and thrive without this comparatively small, but hugely tainted source of income.”

The performance took place on the 5th anniversary of Liberate Tate’s existence. The art collective was formed at a workshop on Disobedience in Tate Modern on 30 January 2010. Tate staff attempted to censor the contents of the workshop to exclude actions around sponsors, and Liberate Tate was born out of discussion and action at the workshop.

Print quality versions of the photo are available on request. See photo set here on Facebook. A short video of the performance will be made available later today. For more information or comment, contact: liberatetate@gmail.com / 07847 830164

See Notes, below.

Photo Credit Martin LeSanto Smith

  1. Tate was forced to disclose the financial sums of the controversial BP sponsorship deal and minutes of internal decision making over the sponsorship, following a 3-year-long Freedom of Information appeals process by Platform, Request Initiative, law firm Leigh Day and Monckton Chambers. The financial sums disclosed range from £150,000 a year between 1991-2000 to £330,000 a year in 2002-2007. They represent around 0.5% of Tate’s overall operational income during the overall period, and since 2000, less than 1% of Tate’s self-generated income (i.e. donations, sales and sponsorship).
  1. The newly revealed minutes of Tate’s Ethics Committee, which reviewed BP sponsorship in 2010, show some scrutiny of BP’s tar sands projects as well as of legal cases against BP as a result of the Deepwater Horizon spill. A passage of the minutes previously redacted state:

“Tate has taken a public stance on sustainability and is arguably the cultural institution most in the public eye in the UK. In light of this the reputational risk to Tate of retaining BP as a partner is significant.”

For more information on the Tate/BP Information Tribunal and released information and documents see ‘Tate forced to reveal BP sponsorship details after 3-year legal battle’:


  1. Since 2010 Liberate Tate has been carrying out a series of unsolicited performances inside Tate galleries aimed at disrupting the sponsorship relationship between BP and Tate. The performances, which have garnered headlines internationally, have included:
Photo Credit Martin LeSanto Smith

Photo Credit Martin LeSanto Smith

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