From France to the UK, action and investigation on oil sponsors

After BAE Systems was forced to back out as a sponsor of the Great Exhibition of the North a little over a week ago, the debate around ethical sponsorship of arts and cultural organisations has continued to grow in momentum…

Action at the Louvre

Last Monday, the french art activist collective,  Libérons le Louvre occupied a gallery within the Total-sponsored Musée du Louvre for over two hours, in protest at the museum’s relationship with the oil giant.

The performers in the group…

“Fell to the floor in front of Théodore Géricault’s famous painting, “The Raft of the Medusa” (1818–19), extending its vivid scene of disaster on the high seas into the gallery’

Libérons le Louvre member Clémence Dubois told the art news site, Hyperallergic

“The point of the performance was really to make the Louvre realize that we’re not here as a joke or to entertain, the aim is for the Louvre to take its responsibility as one of the biggest cultural institutions in the world seriously.”

Their powerful intervention saw security at the museum close the gallery, redirecting visitors to other parts of the museum. You can get the full story here.

Total, Tehran and the Louvre

Just a week earlier, Reuters and other news outlets were reporting on the hosting of a new exhibition by the Louvre in Tehran – ‘the first by a major Western cultural institution’. Its opening coincided with talks between France’s foreign minister and members of the Iranian government. The value for Total of having a relationship with the Louvre is not just that it allows the company to boost its brand, but that it is able to latch onto cultural diplomacy efforts such as these and use them for its own gain…

“In the turbulent ocean of international diplomacy, cultural diplomacy is a beacon we must keep alight,” French Foreign Minister Yves Le Drian told a large audience at an event sponsored by French oil giant Total.

In its write-up of the exhibition, the Guardian tellingly noted that…

Total has signed a $5bn agreement with Iran’s state-owned oil company

Much like BP’s sponsorship of the British Museum’s recent ‘Scythians’ exhibition or the Mariinsky Orchestra’s tours to the UK, these kinds of cultural sponsorship deals allow major fossil fuel companies to grease the wheels of international diplomacy and ensure their plans to drill for new oil and gas stay on track.

Find out more about BP’s use of sponsorship deals to advance its interests in Russia, in our recently published ‘Crude Connections‘ resource.

Raft of local sponsorships revealed

Last Tuesday, the news and investigations site Desmog UK launched a brand new database itemising the raft of community and education sponsorship deals across the UK held by major oil companies, including BP, Shell, Exxon, Total, and Chevron.

These community-level deals help the companies to shore up their ‘social license to operate’ across towns, schools and sports teams. But crucially, these deals also allow the companies involved to promote themselves to MPs and policy makers not as irresponsible polluters but as “generous” investors in our local communities. These sponsorship deals – just like their partnerships with national museums and galleries – are just another form of cheap advertising for these companies.

You can check out Demog’s new database here.

Newly updated ethical sponsorship page!

At the end of last week, we updated our ‘Ethical Sponsorship‘ pages on our website. We initially launched the pages last year after the Artistic Director of the RSC, Greg Doran, was reported in the Guardian as saying that BP’s sponsorship money “was needed” by the RSC. He added…

“In the economy we are in it is very difficult to unpick what is “good” money… if you can answer me that question I’d be delighted.”

Greg Doran’s comments betrayed a clear lack of awareness about just what the RSC should be doing when it comes to fundraising.

We’ve now brought together on a single page what each of the main sector-wide bodies and regulators have to say about ethical fundraising, as well as the policies and processes cultural organisations should have in place. Their codes, policies and guidelines all clearly outline for cultural organisations how to identify when the values of a sponsor or donor doesn’t align with the organisation’s own, and is clearly not “good” money.

You (and Greg) can view the newly updated page here.

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