Shell sponsorship of the National Gallery

In January 2018, Shell’s partnership with the National Gallery in London came to an end. Shell’s relationship with the Gallery has changed over the years, from being a prominent and highly controversial sponsor of the Gallery’s ‘Rembrandt’ exhibition, to the company hosting its Annual Business Reception in the Gallery’s iconic building where it welcomed journalists and government ministers.

Shell’s relationship with the Gallery has been challenged by numerous creative interventions, audacious protests and pressure from campaigners during that time. Below are details of some of those interventions, as well as copies of emails and other documents released by the National Gallery following Freedom of Information requests which shed light on the relationship with Shell.

National Gallery (cropped panorama)

The inside story of Shell’s partnership with the National Gallery

  • Read emails released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) where Shell discusses with the National Gallery the end of the partnership here.

End of partnership email (excerpt)


  • View the National Gallery’s ‘Due Diligence’ report on Shell from January 2016, produced by the Down Jones Risk Center, in full here. It includes entries for over 100 piece of negative media coverage of Shell, 9-pages detailing examples of fines and litigation against the company, and an in-depth report on Shell’s ties to human rights violations in the Niger Delta.

Due Diligence report (excerpt image)

  • You can also view the National Gallery’s ‘Ethical Fundraising Risk Management Statement’ by clicking here.

Risk Management Statement (excerpt)

  • View emails and documents disclosed by the National Gallery following a FOI by Culture Unstained that reveals the perks and privileges received by Shell as a corporate member. Head over to DeSmog UK’s excellent report and analysis, where you can also access the source documents, by clicking here.

DeSmog article on Shell at National Gallery (excerpt)

  • View emails disclosed by the Gallery that shine a spotlight on the benefits gained by Shell as a prominent sponsor of the ‘Rembrandt: The Late Works’ exhibition in 2014-15, a sponsorship deal that faced significant opposition and numerous creative protests.

Rembrandt exhibition - performance indicators excerpt

A campaign of creative action

Below you can view films of just some of the audacious actions and creative protests that have taken place at the National Gallery in opposition to its partnership with Shell:

  • Activist theatre troupe holding a series of musical and theatrical interventions at the launch of the Gallery’s Shell-sponsored Rembrandt exhibition in 2014, and campaigning choir Shell Out Sounds holding a festive protest outside the Gallery the following December. These actions also highlighted and supported strike action being undertaken by Gallery staff at the time in opposition to privatisation plans and the sacking of a member of staff;

  • A group of Quakers holding a silent ‘meeting for worship’ inside the Gallery to highlight Shell’s human rights violations;

  • Members of Reclaim the Power posing as members of Shell staff and giving a fake PR presentation of oil industry “greenwash” next to Van Gogh’s iconic sunflowers painting in 2015. A large group of protesters then marched through the Gallery singing and chanting.