Activists dance at BP Big Screen event

Yesterday evening, activists from @BPOutOfOpera targeted a ‘BP Big Screen’ event at Trafalgar Square, London.

Minutes before the Royal Opera House live broadcast, they performed a symbolic dance in which culture eventually overcomes oil sponsorship.

The action passed off peacefully and got a warm reception from the audience in the packed square on an Indian Summer evening.

‘BP Out of Opera” are one of many groups targeting BP’s greenwash sponsorship of the arts.

For much less money than the equivalent in commercial advertising, oil companies plaster their logo over exhibitions and events (last night giving everyone a free and brightly logo-ed baseball cap), while also cleaning up their image by associating themselves with public art.

Meanwhile those same corporations dodge tax and receive public subsidies on a huge scale – money that would easily cover the sponsorship deals many times over and help pay for education, welfare and health.

Art institutions are very secretive about the level of sponsorship they receive, and currently there is a high court case against Tate to try to uncover the figure, thought to be as little as half a per cent of the gallery’s budget.

BP has recently been declared guilty of ‘gross negligence’ by a US judge over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused huge environmental damage and killed 11 workers.

By showing up at galleries and events, groups like BP Out Of Opera remind the public that BP are not such nice art sponsors, and that the Arts would be better off without them.