Tate considers ending BP sponsorship

December 13th, 2011 | Posted by Alistair in art | discussion | gallery

After a petition from “8,000 Tate members and visitors”, a tsunami of bad publicity executed masterfully by protesters, and a number of “black helium balloons tied to dead fish released in the Turbine Hall” which staff had to shoot down with air rifles, Tate has announced that they will soon make a decision about whether they’ll renew their sponsorship contract with British Petroleum in 2012. It could be that Tate already decided not to, and this is just a PR tactic so they can back out relatively gracefully without burning bridges. Or the opposite, possibly Tate already decided that the sponsorship will continue and this is pre-emptive damage limitation.

Note that even The Guardian unreflectively plays along with the company’s PR game of downplaying what their business is and complying with their rebrand as the intentionally vague “BP”.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/dec/13/tate-bp-partnership-environmental-protests

Some more background and commentary in an older article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/jun/30/bp-tate-protests?intcmp=239

… although most of the comments from “leading cultural figures” are fairly trite or stating the obvious. There are also several airings of the tired, disingenuous and lazy “all money is dirty” excuse. Really? Taking £1 million from a socially responsible company that conducts itself ethically and sustainably is morally equivalent to taking an otherwise identical £1 million from a company whose profits come from deliberate environmental devastation, warfare or slave labour?  No. Accepting £10 from someone you know stole that money from a charity donation tin is the same as somebody voluntarily giving you the £10 they just earned working hard at their minimum wage job? No.

Here’s an analogy that does work: Saying “all money is dirty, therefore it doesn’t matter where or from whom that money comes” is like saying “everyone treats other people badly sometimes, therefore it doesn’t matter how badly I treat anyone.” Clearly neither of these statements are true unless you’re a psychopath or, perhaps worse, you’re technically compos mentis but utterly and deliberately immoral.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t circumstances under which one might (or might have to) consider taking the so-called “dirty money” and at least trying to put it to some better, more constructive use than deliberately destroying human lives and the planet we live on. It’s as disingenuous, lazy and wilfully naïve to utterly rule that possibility out as it is to say that it doesn’t matter because it’s all dirty.

I do, though, like Christopher Frayling’s turn of phrase: “As the chancellor tightens our belts…” Nicely put. He’s tightening our belts, not his own. It also has an appropriately Bullingdon Boy undertone of public school sadomasochism, some kind of posh sixth former erotica. “As Gideon tightened my belt…”

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