Artists, scientists and politicians sign letter to Guardian calling on museum to end out of touch partnership with oil firm
Almost 100 prominent figures from the arts, science and politics are calling on the new director of the British Museum to drop BP as a commercial sponsor.
In a letter to the Guardian, the museum is urged to abandon the completely out of touch partnership.
The intervention is backed by actors Emma Thompson, Mark Ruffalo and Mark Rylance, writers Margaret Atwood, Naomi Klein and Caryl Churchill, as well as the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and physicist Sir Tom Kibble.
It comes shortly after BP announced it was ending its 26-year relationship with the Tate art gallery, blaming the challenging business environment. Anti-oil sponsorship groups claimed that move as a campaign victory, and have since turned their attention to the companys remaining cultural ties.
The focus has switched to other beneficiaries of BP money: the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and particularly the British Museum, where in December 2011 the four museum directors gathered to announce a five-year sponsorship deal worth 10m.
All four institutions have vigorously defended BPs involvement in the arts. The former British Museum director Neil MacGregor described BP as the museums best corporate friend. What would you want companies to do with their profits? he asked. Do you want them to spend them in a way that benefits the public or not?
But Jess Worth of the campaign group Art Not Oil, which organised the letter, said signing up to a new deal would damage the reputation of the museum, especially since our understanding of climate change was evolving, with the need to move away very, very fast from fossil fuel companies.
If the museum is locked into this deal with BP beyond 2020 it is going to look completely on the wrong side of history and completely out of touch. The world has changed and the museum has to change with it.
The letter is timed to coincide with the arrival of the British Museums new German director, Hartwig Fischer, formerly director of the Dresden State Art Collections.
The letter says: As the impacts of climate change are being felt more forcefully around the world, it is vital that prominent public institutions like the British Museum play their part in minimising the environmental impacts of their activities.
Other signatories include the screenwriter John Collee, fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, Bianca Jagger and Prof Dame Anne Glover, former chief scientific adviser to the European commission.