May 4, 2020
News

Responding to protests, BP will no longer help judge this year’s BP Portrait Award.

Activists protesting BP at the British Museum. Photo by Kristian Buus via Getty Images.

Activists protesting BP at the British Museum. Photo by Kristian Buus via Getty Images.

For the first time in more than 20 years, the multinational oil and gas company BP will not participate on the judging panel for the National Portrait Gallery’s (NPG) renowned BP Portrait Award. According to a report in The Guardian, the decision not to be represented on the panel follows increased pressure from artists and climate activists to end BP’s involvement with the award altogether.
Since 1997, the multinational oil and gas company has had some sway over who takes home the prestigious £35,000 ($43,700) prize. Previously, BP’s head of art, culture and sport, Des Violaris, has sat on the judging panel. A representative for the NPG said in a statement quoted by The Guardian: “The gallery and BP jointly agreed not to have a sponsor representative on the judging panel this year.”
The NPG representative maintained that the decision was not influenced by a 2019 campaign calling for the gallery to end its relationship with BP. Signed by nearly 80 prominent U.K. artists—including Antony Gormley, Rachel Whiteread, and Anish Kapoor—the letter urged the NPG to consider BP’s impact on climate change and to end its funding agreement with the company.
The NPG is not the only British institution that has come under fire for their ties to BP in recent years. Due to ongoing pressure from protestors, the Tate museum group announced they would end their partnership with the oil and gas company in 2016; the separation was made effective a year later. Meanwhile, in 2019, the National Galleries of Scotland severed their ties with BP and declined to host the following year’s BP Portrait Award exhibition. This past February, climate activists executed a large-scale occupation of the British Museum, which has been sponsored by BP for more than two decades. The British Museum, however, spurned the protesters’ demands.