On Saturday 7th July a large group of activists, members of the Liberate Tate pressure group, formed to oppose British Petroleum’s sponsorship of Tate Modern, carried sections of a 16.5 metre wind turbine blade across the Millennium Bridge before assembling it in the gallery’s Turbine Hall. The 1.5 tonne blade, taken from a decommissioned site in Wales was presented to Tate staff along with an official request that it be made part of the gallery’s permanent collection. It has since been removed by Tate’s security staff. A spokeswoman for Liberate Tate is quoted as saying that ‘in a time of climate crisis’ visitors to the gallery ‘should not be made to feel that they’re legitimising’ the actions of oil companies like BP.
Last December Sir Nicholas Serota, Tate’s Director was presented with a petition signed by 8000 Tate members and visitors organised by Liberate Tate in collaboration with Platform and Art Not Oil, an event which was preceded in 2010 by protests following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in which 5 gallons of molasses were poured down the steps at Tate Britain during its summer party and balloons attached to dead fish were released in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.
Sponsorship is becoming an increasingly contentious issue as arts organisations struggle to cover costs in the wake of government funding cuts. The value of BP’s sponsorship of national institutions such as the National Gallery, The Royal Opera House and the British Museum is estimated at more than £1 million a year.