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Activists demonstrating at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2016. Photo: Laura Ponchel.

Following Protests, Major Dutch Museums End Oil Company Sponsorships

The Van Gogh Museum and the Hague’s Mauritshuis in Amsterdam have opted not to renew sponsorship deals with the British Dutch oil company Shell. Activists view the move as a major victory for the arts. Museums across the globe have been under increasing pressure to better vet donors and to end philanthropic relationships with funders whose activites conflict with their missions.

In a statement, Shell said that the decision to end its eighteen-year relationship with the Van Gogh Museum and to not enter a new contract with the Mauritshuis was mutual. The company’s six-year agreement with the Mauritshuis expired in July.

The announcement follows a series of protests by Fossil Free Culture, an advocacy group that urges arts institutions to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry. In May, they staged a performance at the Van Gogh Museum in which they unfurled a banner with the words “End the Fossil Fuel Age Now” on it and left black handprints on the building’s windows. Last year, eight protesters were also arrested after they drank oil-like substances from shells while demonstrating in the museum’s lobby. 

In response to the news, Fossil Free Culture declared, “We will continue to fight for a legal framework that bans the fossil fuel industry from being able to influence and sanitize their public image.” As part of their campaign to end artwashing, the group may soon start to carry out actions at other institutions that still receive funding from Shell. According to a list on its website, Concertgebouw, the Museum Boerhaave, and the Tropenmuseum are among the Dutch museums that are sponsored by the oil giant.

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