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Art Activists Spill Oil at Iconic British Museum in Protest at BP Sponsorship
Like the Tate, whose trustees meet to discuss their sponsorship arrangements tomorrow, the British Museum receives money from BP on an annual basis. Photo: Amy Scaife.


LONDON.- Five members of the art activist group Culture Beyond Oil today poured non-toxic black oil around the British Museum’s world famous Easter Island sculpture, in protest at BP’s sponsorship of the museum.

The group, inspired by Liberate Tate’s intervention at Tate Britain earlier this month, said it had deliberately chosen the giant statue of a human head because it represents the way in which civilizations once considered invincible can collapse in a short period of time. The activists were careful not to pour oil on the sculpture itself, which is seated on a modern stone plinth.

Like the Tate, whose trustees meet to discuss their sponsorship arrangements tomorrow, the British Museum receives money from BP on an annual basis. In return the company is able to use the building to hold corporate parties and launch events, as well as having its logo used on official British Museum publications.

Lisa Reardon, one of the artists who took part, said: "Institutions such as the British Museum are amongst the most valuable assets that this country has, but their worldwide reputation is being tarnished by the sponsorship deal with BP.

“Unless the people who run this museum want to see its famous pillars become a crumbling relic of the oil age they need to stop giving BP cover for its destructive business. This oil company is using our best loved museums and galleries to distract us from a catastrophic headlong rush to extract the last drops of the black stuff."

This intervention follows similar events at the Tate Modern, Tate Britain and National Portrait Gallery in recent weeks. Tonight will also see the BP-sponsored screening of the Royal Opera’s Simon Boccanegra in Trafalgar Square targeted by Climate Rush and the Greenwash Guerrillas.

The statue around which the oil was poured is known as Hoa Hakananai'a, a 2000 year old relic taken from Easter Island by European explorers. The story of the Easter Island statues is often cited as an example of the speed with which once strong civilizations have suddenly collapsed.

BP receives tangible benefits from the sponsorship deal with the British Museum. Two years ago, BP chief executive Tony Hayward announced BP's sponsorship of the 2012 Olympic Games in the museum’s impressive central courtyard [5].

Another art activist, Ben Cooper, who is also part of Liberate Tate, said: “Oil sponsorship of public institutions is a problem that stretches way beyond BP and the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil industry has a long history of environmental and human rights abuses, and is currently pulling us closer and closer to a potential catastrophe on a global scale."

"Just like the forests on Easter Island, oil represents a resource being over-exploited despite massively increasing risks. With our relentless search for oil we are risking the collapse of the ecosystems on which we depend - just as the inhabitants of Easter Island did 2000 years ago”.

Culture Beyond Oil want publicly funded institutions such as Tate and the British Museum to end their relationships with oil companies. The group are also calling for cultural institutions to fully disclose the nature and extent of their funding arrangements with the oil industry, and to make this information publicly available immediately.

London | British Museum | Lisa Reardon |




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