Three years after a request under the Freedom of Information Act, Tate has responded to a Tribunal ruling that it must release some details of its sponsorship deal with BP.
©Martin LeSanto-Smith 2014
Tate galleries have disclosed the financial sums involved in some of their sponsorship deals with BP following a 3-year battle by campaign group Platform to have the details released under Freedom of Information rules. Minutes of Tate’s internal decision making relating to these deals have also been released.
Tate’s decision to release the information, rather than take the matter to appeal, follows a ruling by the Information Tribunal which gave them 35 days to disclose the amount of money received from BP between 1990 and 2006, but allowed more recent sponsorship deals to remain secret. The disclosure shows that BP’s corporate support ranged from £150k a year prior to 2000, to £330k a year from 2002-2007. The figures since 2000 represent less than 1% of Tate’s self-generated income from donations, sales and sponsorship.
Platform has long argued that oil companies are inappropriate sponsors of the arts due to their poor record on environmental issues, and that Tate could afford to turn down sponsorship from BP. By associating itself with Tate, they believe BP is earning itself misplaced recognition and gratitude among opinion-formers. Responding to the released figures, campaigner Anna Galkina said: “The BP sponsorship figures are even lower than we had estimated. For nearly a decade, Tate provided a veneer of respectability to one of the world’s most controversial companies for just £150,000 a year. The figures are embarrassingly small for Tate to go on justifying its BP relationship… Tate can clearly do without BP. A growing wave of universities, faith and government institutions are choosing to divest and break ties with the fossil fuel industry – it’s time for Tate to join them!”
According to the newly released minutes relating to the sponsorship decisions, Tate’s Ethics Committee reviewed BP’s sponsorship in 2010, including scrutiny of BP’s tar sands projects and some legal cases against BP related to the Deepwater Horizon spill. The minutes note that Tate, which had taken a “public stance on sustainability”, recognised the “reputational risk” of retaining BP as a partner, but nonetheless concluded: “taking a moral stance on the ethics of the Oil and Gas sector… is outside of Tate’s charitable objectives.”
Rosa Curling, Solicitor for Leigh Day, who worked on the case, said: “If public bodies are accepting sponsorship money from corporations such as BP, they must be open about how much they are receiving. Tate’s actions have prevented proper public debate over the acceptability of the sponsorship, based on actual figures, for over three years. We hope that Tate will now change its approach and act in a more open and transparent manner about corporate sponsorship from now on.”