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Cultural institutions under fire for renewed BP investment

BP has announced that it will continue to sponsor four of Britain’s best-known museums and theatres.

The British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company will share £7.5 million in sponsorship over five years for a range of projects.

Sponsorship of Britain’s art institutions by the oil company has become increasingly controversial, with campaigners staging a number of protests. The British Museum is also being investigated by the Museums Association for potential breaches of its code of ethics regarding corporate sponsorship.

Chris Garrard, who wrote a report on BP’s influence on the museums and galleries that it sponsors for the campaign group Art Not Oil, said the decision was “absolutely bizarre” because it was so “out of touch with the mood within culture”.

He pointed out that Alex Beard, the chief executive of the Royal Opera House, had recently called for a strong deal on climate change. “It is really disconnected to be vocal about taking a strong stance on climate change and then months later to give an endorsement to BP, who are always through their lobbying undermining these deals on climate change,” said Garrard. “On top of that, the deal is for a smaller amount of money, so BP still has its influence but is giving an even smaller proportion to these institutions.”

In a statement, Beard said: “BP has been and remains at the forefront of corporate investment in arts and culture in the UK and it’s wonderful for the Royal Opera House to have their commitment for a further five years. One of the benefits of such long‐term support is that you can really build and develop a partnership, and to have the BP Big Screen programme consistently providing opportunities for people up and down the country to access world‐class ballet and opera for free is fantastic.”