Activists force Tate Modern to close over BP


10:28 am - May 18th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Tate Modern was forced to close down parts of its No Soul For Sale tenth anniversary exhibition this Saturday whilst it struggled to remove dozens of dead fish and oil-soaked birds hanging from huge black balloons let loose in the Turbine Hall.

Art activists from Liberate Tate, a growing network dedicated to ensuring the museum drop its sponsorship deal with BP (British Petroleum), infiltrated Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and released dozens of helium-filled black balloons with dead animals attached.

Crowds of tourists and art lovers gathered to watch the balloons rise up in the air until they filled the ceiling of the Turbine Hall.

Josephine Buoys, who took part in the art action, said:

We took this action whilst Tate sponsor BP is creating the largest oil painting in the world. Across the Gulf of Mexico ecosystems and livelihoods are being devastated by their oil spill. Every day Tate scrubs clean BP’s public image with the detergent of cool progressive art. Yet there is nothing cool about a corporation that cares more about its profits than life or the future of our fragile world.

The activist group is promising further actions to “free art from oil” by artists and activists across Britain until Tate ends its association with BP.

It has also issued an open invitation for artists, activists, art lovers and other concerned members of the public to act to ensure that Tate ends its oil sponsorship by the end of 2011 ahead of Tate Modern’s expansion into its cleaned out underground oil tanks.

@liberatetate / liberatetate@gmail.com

[hat tip Derek Wall]

Meanwhile, the oil spill in the US is becoming a hotly debated topic on US news networks

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


How disgraceful that BP gives money to promote art. Derek Wall, of course, would prefer if the artists lived on vegan communes in the countryside rather than horrible, modern London.

Maybe I’m a sucker for corporate image-manipulation, but I’ve always assumed that BP is dead against oil-spills – not least ‘cos they have to pay for the clean-up and because they see all that potential profit going to waste. These protesters seem to imagine the wicked oil companies actually like degrading the environment, which is a silly, tinfoil hat position IMHO.
Also, while the Beyond Petroleum slogan may be a bit of hype, isn’t there some truth in BP being one of the more enlightened parts of Big Oil and pioneering a lot of work in the field of renewables?

These protesters seem to imagine the wicked oil companies actually like degrading the environment, which is a silly, tinfoil hat position IMHO.

Erm, if you actually watch the video it lists several examples of companies like BP ignoring regulation and not being subject to proper controls.

It is cheaper for BP to pay for spills (there is still limited liability) than be properly careful according to many. So it ain’t tin-foil hat. Why not read up on some facts instead?

Derek Wall, of course, would prefer if the artists lived on vegan communes in the countryside rather than horrible, modern London.

Talk about completely missing the point. Idiot

“there is still limited liability”

This does not mean what you think it means.

Limited liability means that BP can only be asked to pay for the costs of spills and pollution up to the limit of all of the money that BP has. Some hundreds of billions that is.

It does not mean that BP only has to pay a certain amount for any particular spill. They have to pay until they go bankrupt….limited liability means that after they go bankrupt you cannot then go after everything that the shareholders own.

“dozens of dead fish and oil-soaked birds”

One question: where did they get the fish and birds from? There aren’t any oil spills that I know if in London at the moment….so, did they “create” them? Or fly them in?

Can’t help but have conflicting feelings about this. After all, it sounds like a decent bit of public art to me (especially if the fish and birds were real – I love that level of ambiguity in my public art, me…).

But closing a free museum open to anyone to promote your own agenda (however worthy or misplaced) is just selfish. By all means protest to your heart’s content, but do not take it on yourself to cause disruption to those not involved – they will see the protests after all.

Of course, this being Tate Modern, they maybe should just have arranged to stage the protest as an example of protest art. Then everyone would be happy (for five seconds or so).

Sunny @ 3

It is cheaper for BP to pay for spills (there is still limited liability) than be properly careful according to many. So it ain’t tin-foil hat. Why not read up on some facts instead?

This spill has cost BP $450 million in clean up costs so far and > $7 million in lost oil. Also, the company’s share price has taken a big hit – wiping around 8 billion off the share price. The final costs of the clean up could be a lot more – running into billions according to some estimates. I dunno how much profit a single oil rig generates, but given this sort of scale, I find it hard to believe that “it is cheaper for BP to pay for spills …. than be properly careful”.

7. Matt Munro

@ 3 “It is cheaper for BP to pay for spills (there is still limited liability) than be properly careful according to many. So it ain’t tin-foil hat. Why not read up on some facts instead?”

It’s absolutely “tin foil hat”. The liability is almost open ended, (as someone else has pointed out “limited liability” means limited to the market capitalisation of the company, not limited in terms of what they have to pay for). They could well end up compensating fishermen and the tourist trade on top of the direct costs of the cleanup, not to mention reputational damage and their precious commodity being pissed away. Their share price tanked on news of the leak, there is nothing good for any oil company about a major leak.

Poor BP. It must have been Obamas communist government who forced them to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, right?

just curious as to what actions this group is taking to replace the BP funding of the Tate. Would they be stupid enough to want to want to destroy the Tate?

“Every day Tate scrubs clean BP’s public image with the detergent of cool progressive art.”

Thats funny, this is the first time I was made aware that BP sponsored the Tate. Good job.

Is the spokesperson for Liberate Tate really called Josephine Buoys? I smell Chris Morris…

More seriously though, I can’t help but think that this will backfire. Tate Modern is great imo, and attacking it like this will put people off the protesters’ (justified) cause.

Does anyone have any other news sources for this?

This spill has cost BP $450 million in clean up costs so far and > $7 million in lost oil.

So? It’s a pittance compared to the economic damage and the environmental damage.

When I said limited liability, I meant this:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/18/inhofe-blocks-second-dem_n_580307.html

In fact BP is getting away with it far too easily just like Exxon did with the Exxon Valdez spill.

Would they be stupid enough to want to want to destroy the Tate?

Who cares about bloody money when you’ve got middle class people to subsidise!

Sunny

It’s a pittance

It ain’t a pittance, it’s already 20% of the operating profit of BP America and likely to be 50% by year end.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing that Big Oil are the most wonderful conservators of the natural environment. Only that your suggestion that oil companies don’t give a shit about a major spill like this is so off the mark as to be well into TFH territory.

@13

Who cares about bloody money when you’ve got middle class people to subsidise!

You know that’s the same argument the raving right use against free museums and art galleries..?

Unless your definition of “middle class” means “goes to the odd art gallery” then it’s a very wrong line of argument to take. The Tates (and others) have opened up the world and history of art to many hundreds of thousands since their opening; it’s simply churlish to deny that.

Soft target as far as I can tell. How many other orgs and corps are sponsered by BP and yet getting off lightly apparently?

You know that’s the same argument the raving right use against free museums and art galleries..?

Unless your definition of “middle class” means “goes to the odd art gallery” then it’s a very wrong line of argument to take. The Tates (and others) have opened up the world and history of art to many hundreds of thousands since their opening; it’s simply churlish to deny that.

I deny it.

Art galleries are inhabited by tourists and middle class pseuds looking for a cheap afternoon out. If you don’t believe me go to one and look around you.

Good art will thrive without state subsidy.

17. Matt Munro

@ 15 “Unless your definition of “middle class” means “goes to the odd art gallery” then it’s a very wrong line of argument to take. The Tates (and others) have opened up the world and history of art to many hundreds of thousands since their opening; it’s simply churlish to deny that”.

That’s probably the best definition of middle class I’ve heard. On the couple of accasions I’ve been to tate modern (hated every minute) it didn’t appear to be heaving with plumbers and road sweepers, more a mixture of nauseating, pretentious media types and left wing professionals, plus the obligatory tourists
.
Opening your doors to the masses doesn’t mean the masses will come, in fact it’s hugely patronising to assume they *should* be interested in art. The fact that it’s sponsored by BP is entirely appropriate – it’s middle class patrons rely on big business for their livelihood, whether they like it or not.

@17

it didn’t appear to be heaving with plumbers and road sweepers

How could you tell? Because they weren’t fixing pipes and mending roads? Talk about patronising…

What makes you assume that different people from all walks of life aren’t interested in art? If you made that claim about any other social division you’d be vilified as a racist/sexist/homophobe but apparently it’s fine to be a snob, still. Leave “the workers” to their football and pubs eh?

FFS, I’ve worked in both a factory and a call centre (both minimum wage) when I’ve visited the Tate mod, should I demand a backdated payrise from my previous employers because I’ve gone up the social ladder by having an interest?

@16

Good art will thrive without state subsidy.

That’s beside the point; the good thing about free art galleries is that anyone can go and appreciate it and it’s not locked up in some dusty stately home or a costly gallery to keep out the plebs.

Has there ever been a social survey of people who visit the free art galleries? I don’t just mean the Tate I mean in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham etc etc. Be interested to see,.

20. Watchman

Not sure what class has to do with it – if you think art should be free, it should be free regardless of class, race, gender or whatever of those who come to look at it. Otherwise, you seem to be claiming art should only be free to those who don’t want to look at it, which seems odd.

“Has there ever been a social survey of people who visit the free art galleries? I don’t just mean the Tate I mean in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham etc etc. Be interested to see,.”

Yes. Page 62 here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=T6w_ah-baaoC&pg=PA59&lpg=PA59&dq=survey+of+art+museum+visitors+uk&source=bl&ots=ugjooynbJY&sig=TbYA4je6ShwElkDstxv80LcQxgk&hl=en&ei=4A_0S-7SFNCJ_AaywYD-DA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CCgQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=survey%20of%20art%20museum%20visitors%20uk&f=false

43% of A/B’s visit museums. 34% of C1, 24% of C2, 21% of D and 18% of E.

That certainly shows that it’s more of a middle class thing than a working class thing, doesn’tit?

@24

That certainly shows that it’s more of a middle class thing than a working class thing, doesn’tit?

Cheers for the link. Yes, it does show that – but it also shows that 21% of D and 18% of E go (or went – from what I can tell that research is from the early ’90s, be good to see something more up to date), which proves that the “free art = middle-class subsidy” statement is a lie misconception.

and @20

That’s exactly my point.

*cough* I missed out an “or” between “lie” and “misconception” 😉

24. Matt Munro

@ 22 “Yes, it does show that – but it also shows that 21% of D and 18% of E go (or went – from what I can tell that research is from the early ’90s, be good to see something more up to date), which proves that the “free art = middle-class subsidy” statement is a lie misconception.”

Does it ? You always get some crossover e.g the sterotypical football fan is working class (and a violent drunk according to some on another thread) but you also get doctors, lawyers and accountants at football matches. That doesn’t alter the fact that the majority belong to one class rather than another. I also don’t undersatnd why putting art in an an old power station makes it any more accesible than putting it anywhere else. Tate modern is as snobby (albeit it in a modern way) as Tate trad, if you don’t perceive it as such then you are middle class.

We’re not talking about normal limited liability. Federal regs limit liability of oil companies to $75mn for costs not directly related to cleanup, say e.g. the economic cost that will be borne by workers who rely on the Gulf of Mexico.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Sheryl Odlum

    RT @libcon: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  2. Paul Fraser Webb

    RT @libcon: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  3. earwicga

    RT @libcon Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/9pk9Tl

  4. Vic Forte

    RT @libcon: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  5. Rob Fahey

    This anti-BP protest sounds like the most interesting thing that's been in the Tate's Turbine Hall for years: http://bit.ly/bDtuEJ

  6. Jack Palmer

    RT @sunny_hundal: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc – loving this, by @liberatetate

  7. Justin Baidoo

    RT @sunny_hundal: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc – loving this, by @liberatetate

  8. Emma-Louise Hardman

    Liberal Conspiracy – Activists force Tate Modern to close over BP http://bit.ly/c2rr2b

  9. Fanny DiWanko

    RT @sunny_hundal: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc – loving this, by @liberatetate

  10. Ed Gerstner

    Inspired! Activists force Tate Modern to close over BP. http://bit.ly/buc6Yt (from @Sunny_Hundal)

  11. MusicMP

    RT @libcon: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  12. Tara B

    :)RT @sunny_hundal Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc – loving this, by @liberatetate

  13. /jess bradley

    @liberatetate activists close the tate in protest against BP sponsership, in an action involving oilspill birds http://tinyurl.com/3x74wvr

  14. Liberal Conspiracy

    Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  15. Tweets that mention Liberal Conspiracy » Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Liberal Conspiracy. Liberal Conspiracy said: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc […]

  16. Claire Louise French

    RT @libcon: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  17. Derek Bryant

    RT @libcon Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  18. Matt Lodder

    RT @libcon Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  19. ohmyliver

    RT @libcon: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  20. JWAngus

    RT @libcon: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  21. Sarah Raphael

    RT @libcon Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  22. sunny hundal

    Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc – loving this, by @liberatetate

  23. fanny breteau kane

    @vacuumcleaner @ashelem Guys @liberatetate force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc Via @sunny_hundal

  24. ~ Life_is_eARTh ~

    Liberal Conspiracy » Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery …: Tate Modern was forced to close down parts … http://bit.ly/bnr8gi

  25. Ryan Bestford

    Activists force Tate Modern to close over BP – http://bit.ly/d7PK4Z (via @LibCon)

  26. Andrew Law

    This was a small step in the right direction http://bit.ly/beiPsn – Video clip at bottom worth watching.

  27. alix L.

    RT @libcon: Activists force Tate Modern to close gallery over BP sponsorship http://bit.ly/aNtRLc

  28. Trash the Tate: Tax Yourself for the Cleanup. : The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts

    […] and littering them with dead birds, forcing portions of the exhibition to close. The blogs Liberal Conspiracy, Art Threat and Indymedia UK touted the action as powerful and appropriate. In the meantime, museum […]

  29. News Room :: Trash the Tate: Tax Yourself for the Cleanup.

    […] and littering them with dead birds, forcing portions of the exhibition to close. The blogs Liberal Conspiracy, Art Threat and Indymedia UK touted the action as powerful and appropriate. In the meantime, museum […]

  30. Activists force Tate Modern to close over BP « Climate Connections

    […] Cross Posted from Liberal Conspiracy […]

  31. ArtObserved

    Activists dedicated to ensuring Tate drop its sponsorship deal with BP force it to close Turbine Hall: http://bit.ly/Tate_Activists

  32. Paul Soto

    RT @ArtObserved Activists dedicated to ensuring Tate drop sponsorship deal w/BP force it to close Turbine Hall: http://bit.ly/Tate_Activists

  33. Not Banksy

    A link would surely help http://bit.ly/atG4in. Still waiting for an overdue Banksy BP themed print release before full judgement can be made





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