A 30 year sponsorship deal between BP and the National Gallery will end in December, the parties say.
In a press release on Tuesday (February 22), they confirmed that BP's support of the Portrait Award will not be renewed. It said the decision was made "together", offering no insight into whether pressure to end oil company sponsorship of the arts convinced either partner that time was up.
"The BP of today is a very different company from when we first started our partnership with the National Portrait Gallery," the company's UK boss Louise Kingham said, noting a need to find "new ways to best use our talent, experience, and resources".
Lobby groups Culture Unstained and BP or not BP? claim its clear the partnership had become too controversial.
"This is clearly a vote of no confidence in BP’s business. The company spent 30 years painting a picture of itself as a responsible philanthropist but it is rapidly running out of places to clean up its toxic image," Culture Unstained Co-Director Jess Worth said.
Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, expressed gratitude for the long-running support.
"Its funding for the award has fostered creativity, encouraged portrait painting for over 30 years and given a platform to artists from around the world, as well as providing inspiration and enjoyment for audiences across the UK."
It's estimated the sponsorship enabled six million free visits and contributed to the career development of more than 1,500 portrait artists.
The last Portrait Award was in 2020. It was not staged this year or last because the gallery is closed for redevelopment.