Banks and oil giants should keep out of temples of culture, shouldn’t they? Andrew Dickson thought so – until he made a documentary about sponsorship and the increasingly desperate search for funding
Even if you didn’t glimpse the BP-branded sea monster that invaded the British Museum during a protest in September, and managed to avoid a naked man being slathered with oil at Tate Britain, you’re unlikely to have missed the bitter guerrilla war raging between Big Oil and sections of the art world.
For a while, it looked as if the protesters had the upper hand. In March, BP announced that, owing to an “extremely challenging business environment”, it wouldn’t be renewing a sponsorship deal with Tate that had been in place for 26 years. Activists promptly hailed this as a brilliant victory, and a parting of the ways with the Edinburgh international festival swiftly followed. But then in July, the company indicated that it wasn’t done yet, announcing that it would continue funding other leading institutions to the tune of £7.5m over the next five years. Tate’s loss appears to be the Royal Shakespeare Company’s gain (or, given the politics, possibly it’s the other way around).
Are arts organisations obliged to probe the bank accounts of individual donors? How clean does clean need to be?