Revealed: National Portrait Gallery’s Ethics rules – and how BP breaches them

Culture Unstained has issued a formal complaint, alleging BP’s human rights record breaches the National Portrait Gallery’s ethics rules.

  • On the eve of the BP Portrait Award announcement, we release the Gallery’s Ethical Fundraising Policy for the first time
  • Our damning new report shines a spotlight on BP’s close ties to rights violating regimes around the world including Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia and Mexico
  • The formal complaint we’ve issued to the Gallery sets out how the recent BP sponsorship deal breaches the gallery’s clause on human rights, and calls for BP to be dropped

You can read the full report by clicking below…

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It reveals how the National Portrait Gallery’s sponsorship deal with BP breaches its own Ethical Fundraising Policy. Crucially, the Policy allows the Gallery to reject support when:

‘the supporting source is known or suspected to be closely associated with a regime known or suspected to be in violation of human rights’

The only conclusion that can be reached is that the evidence of BP’s multiple close associations with such regimes was either dismissed by the Gallery or overlooked.

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Chris Garrard, lead author of the report, said:

‘The Gallery needs to explain what the purpose of having an Ethical Fundraising Policy is if you’re not willing to stand by your values and put it into action. It’s disturbing to think the Gallery might have researched BP’s close ties to regimes that violate human rights and decided that’s the company it wants to keep. And if they failed to subject BP to proper ethical scrutiny, then there are serious questions about whether this ill-advised sponsorship deal is legitimate at all.’

The report contains nine case studies, including material on:

  • Azerbaijan, where BP works closely with the notoriously repressive Aliyev regime and where there are over 100 political prisoners.
  • In Egypt, where BP is one of the largest foreign investors and works in direct partnership with a regime condemned for its repressive anti-protest law which has all but silenced opposition including, it appears, to BP itself.
  • In West Papua, where BP works with the Indonesian government which continues to brutally occupy West Papua and deny Indigenous Papuans the right to self-determination.

Benny Wenda, the West Papuan Independence Leader, has said:

‘BP have never recognised that they operate in the middle of a genocide. They only call it a ‘complex situation’. Is it complex that every day my people are shot by Indonesian security forces, that every day they are tortured? BP never talks about human rights, never recognises how it helps support an illegal occupation of Papuans’ land. This British company has a responsibility to tell the truth about what is happening in West Papua – but they just want to make quick money.’ 

The BP Portrait Award, hosted by the National Portrait Gallery, is one of the most prominent portrait prizes in the world but has regularly attracted criticism over its sponsor. Creative protests have taken place in London, and during the award’s tour to Edinburgh, Belfast and Colchester. Critically-acclaimed artist Raoul Martinez – who was shortlisted for the award three times – has also spoken out against BP’s sponsorship in the past.