There have been allegations that some of Britain’s most revered cultural institutions have broken its code of ethics in the way they dealt with one of their commercial sponsors, BP and the allegations are being investigated by the Museums Association, reported The Guardian.
It is alleged that the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery and other institutions had bent to accommodate the demands of the oil company and the moves for the investigation comes after the release of internal documents that suggest the above.
BP influenced curatorial decision-making, shaped cultural institutions’ security strategies and used museums to further its political interests in the UK and abroad, argues the Art Not Oil alliance.
Its code of ethics encouraged museums to act transparently and to only seek support from organizations whose values were consistent with their own, said Alistair Brown, policy officer at the Museum Association.
“The Museum Association’s ethics committee will consider Art Not Oil’s claims if they wish to seek further guidance on this matter and will contact all parties involved to seek their views,” he added.
The document that were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Art Not Oil alliance show that the British Museaum apparently gave BP the last word on the inclusion of an artwork in an exhibition of aboriginal art at a time when the company was trying to progress the controversial offshore Great Australian Bight project.
The documents also allege that BP successfully urged the British Museum and National Portrait Gallery to send staff to a counter-terrorism training programme it had set up and worked with cultural institutions to manage legitimate protests.
Documents further indicate that amid worry that their members might be opponents of fossil fuel arts sponsorship, the oil company requested information about the involvement of trade unions at the different arts institutions.
Fighting off an attempt by BP to put its logo on the front of an NPG book about commissioning by Pim Baxter, director of communications at the National Portrair Galllery is shown in one of the email.
BP responds: “OK to go on this occasion but one to discuss in our catch ups.”
It has heard back from the Spinifex Group of female painters, from the Great Victorian Desert of South Australia, who are offering one of their works to the museum, says the British Museum to BP in another email. The email says: “The curator of the exhibition is keen to move forward with this so we just wanted to make sure you had no objection to this?”
He had little doubt the Museums Association’s code of ethics was being challenged, said Chris Garrard, lead author of the report, BP’s Cultural Sponsorship: A Corrupting Influence, and a part of the Art Not Oil campaign coalition.
“We’ve always known that BP uses sponsorship deals to buy a social legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve. But now we have specific evidence of where our museums and galleries have been complicit in advancing BP’s business interests and keeping the voices of the company’s critics in check,” he said.
He added: “How can we have trust in these institutions when they have repeatedly put BP’s needs before the public good?”
(Adapted from The Guardian)