The British Museum and BP: Together Till the End of the Year

The British Museum Finally Ended a 27-Year-Long Cooperation With BP, Following Climate Protests Against Their Sponsorship Deal.

Jun 4, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
The British Museum
Climate change activists protest at the British Museum. Photo: Diana More, courtesy of BP or not BP?


The British Museum decided to change their deal with the fossil fuel company BP. They had a sponsorship deal for almost three decades, but it suddenly stopped due to long-lasting climate protests. The BP is now withdrawing from the art world, after so many philanthropic work, including the Tate and the National Portrait Gallery.


The British Museum Will Run the Deal Until the End of the Year

The British Museum
A protest against BP sponsorship at the British Museum in 2015. Photo: Niklas Halle’N/AFP/Getty Images.


The museum has not yet officially announced the termination of cooperation, but the last contract expired in February. According to details received through a freedom of information request, the museum permits BP to preserve its “supporter benefits” through December due to “certain terms” of the agreement.


It is not clear what the benefits are. “BP is a valued long-term supporter of the museum and our current partnership runs until this year”, a British Museum spokesperson told Artnet News in an email. However, the museum said there are no other contracts with the company. The last exhibition sponsored by the company, “Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt”, ended in February.


anti-BP protest
Star of “From Nope to Hope, part two,” the anti-BP octopus, was smuggled into the British Museum. Photo: Ron Fassbender


Culture Unstained co-director Chris Garrard said that the termination of cooperation between these two institutions marks a great victory. “If it is serious about responding to the climate crisis, the museum must now confirm there will be no future relationships with fossil fuel producers, take down BP’s name from its lecture theatre, and roundly reject the climate-wrecking business it represents”.

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Climate Protest’s Influence on Cultural Institutions

Drop BP
Activists stand around a banner that says “Drop BP” in the style of the BP logo at the British Museum on April 23, 2022.


Relations with companies such as BP began to reflect badly on cultural institutions, including museums. Many climate groups, such as  BP or not BP?, and Greenpeace staging disruptive protests, spoke to the museum about not accepting such donations because of their impact on the environment. Although it took a long time, The British Museum caved to the pressure to end the relationship.


The Tate was the first to go out of business with the company in 2016, after 26 years in business. the National Galleries of Scotland announced that it would stop hosting the BP Portrait Exhibition in 2019. The National Portrait Gallery finally agreed to drop BP as its sponsor in 2022, after more than 30 years.


The British Museum
Members of the PCS Culture Group picketing in front of the British Museum in London. Courtesy of PCS.


It it seems the museum altered course after a series of increasingly theatrical climate protests in which people stuck themselves to the frames of artworks and threw meals at paintings protected by glass. That implies that the London Science Museum’s education academy is the only significant museum in the country to still count BP as a donor.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.