Activists recently unfurled a thirty-six-foot tall banner in front of the British Museum to protest British Petroleum’s sponsorship of the museum, reports Hyperallergic_. The banner visualized 2,727 oil spills caused in one year by Rosneft, a government oil company in Russia in which BP has almost a 20 percent stake. The protest, held by the activist group BP or Not BP?, marked the end of a BP-backed exhibition at the museum titled “Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia,” which BP or Not BP? demonstrated against last December. Activist Helen Glynn told Hyperallergic that BP’s sponsorship of the museum “fits into a wider strategy of trying to rehabilitate the Russian government in the eyes of Western policymakers, in an effort to weaken the sanctions that prevent BP from getting its drills into the Russian Arctic.”
The activists called attention to recent revelations made public by Culture Unstained, an organization campaigning to end the fossil fuel industry’s funding of cultural institutions and the legitimacy conferred by such patronage. Rather than divulge unlawful activities, Culture Unstained’s documents offer transparency concerning the often secretive communication between cultural institutions, politicians, and energy corporations.
The group recently published e-mails between Russian and British officials, BP representatives, the State Hermitage Museum, and the British Museum. One chain of correspondence, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, revealed a private meeting arranged for British Museum director Hartwig Fischer and the chair of the museum’s trustees, Richard Lambert; two BP employees; and Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the UK. Yakovenko would later praise BP at the aforementioned exhibition’s opening for “supporting the cultural and scientific ties between our two nations.” In 2016, the British Museum renewed its sponsorship agreement with BP, unlike the Tate, which severed its ties following increased public scrutiny.