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The Scottish National Gallery. Maciek Szczepaniak.
The Scottish National Gallery. Maciek Szczepaniak.

National Galleries of Scotland to Sever Ties with BP

The National Galleries of Scotland announced on Monday that it plans on ending its relationship with the oil giant British Petroleum, citing the current “climate emergency.” The move comes almost a week after a new report, “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency,” was published in the journal of Bioscience. The study has been endorsed by 11,258 scientists in 153 countries.

“Despite forty years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have generally conducted business as usual and have largely failed to address this predicament,” the study states. It also declares the need to “implement massive energy efficiency and conservation practices,” such as replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, cutting climate pollutants, and restoring and protecting ecosystems.

Ecologist Bill Ripple of Oregon State University, one of the researchers behind the report, told the Washington Post, “The situation we’re in today with climate change shows that this is an issue that needs to move beyond climate scientists only.”

In the art world, climate and environmental activists have staged numerous protests at institutions connected to companies such as BP in recent years. Among the institutions targeted by campaigners were the Tate, the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the Royal Opera House, and the Royal Shakespeare Company—all of which had sponsorship deals with the multinational oil and gas company. The Tate and the Edinburgh Festival eventually ended their partnerships with BP in 2016, and earlier this year the Royal Shakespeare Company also cut ties.

The British Museum, the Royal Opera House, and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London have continued accepting funding from BP and as a result continue to face backlash. In February, hundreds of people participated in an action at the British Museum in one of the largest protests against oil sponsorship in the cultural sector, and in July, a trustee of the institution, Ahdaf Soueif, stepped down over its controversial funding agreement. In addition, the National Portrait Gallery director, Nicholas Cullinan, received a letter penned by several artists that stated its hosting of the oil-branded prize is damaging its reputation and urged it to seek alternative funding.

Organized by NPG, this year’s BP Portrait Award exhibition will open at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh on December 7 and will be the last BP-backed show hosted by the institution. In a statement, the National Galleries of Scotland said: “we recognize that we have a responsibility to do all we can to address the climate emergency. For many people, the association of this competition with BP is seen as being at odds with that aim. Therefore, after due consideration, the Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland have decided that this will be the last time that the galleries will host this exhibition in its present form.”

The statement continued: “The exhibition has been extremely popular with new and existing visitors over the years. We are grateful to the National Portrait Gallery in London and to BP for the opportunity that the competition and exhibition has provided to inspire young talent and to promote portrait artists from around the world.”