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Artists criticise BP sponsorship of Tate

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 28 June 2010

A group of artists put their names to a letter condemning the Tate for accepting BP sponsorship, as protestors are expected to picket a summer party at the gallery later tonight.

The Greenwash Guerrillas protest outside the National Portrait Gallery.

The letter, signed by 171 figures from the art world, criticises the Tate's relationship with BP as the oil giant continues to work to control the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The letter is published on the day that a summer party is due to be held at the Tate Britain - an element of which will celebrate 20 years of BP's continued sponsorship. Today's letter, published in the Guardian, says the BP logo represents a "stain on the Tate reputation".

The group, acting under the banner The Good Crude Britannia, say they plan to picket the event and handout leaflets to guests in protest. The group set up Facebook page aimed at coordinating tonight's protest which will gather opposite the Tate Britain. Artist John Keane, cartoonist Martin Rowson, and comedian Robert Newman are among the signatories on the letter.

Last week, the Tate defended its relationship with the oil giant which it described as "one of the UK's most important sponsors of the arts".

In a joint statement with a number of other leading galleries and museums the Tate praised BP's contribution to the arts world. 

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"We are grateful to BP for their long-term commitment," said the Tate, the Royal Opera House, the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery in a statement.

"The income generated through corporate partnerships is vital to the mixed economy of successful arts organisations and enables each of us to deliver a rich and vibrant cultural programme."

The planned protest follows demonstrations by a group called the Greenwash Guerrillas who picketed outside a BP-sponsored event at the National Portrait Gallery last week (pictured above). Dressed in white overalls the guerrillas handed out leaflets while telling passes by the gallery was "leaking toxic green wash". Greenpeace also showcased an "alternative exhibition" at a private viewing at the gallery.

The recent demonstrations are not the first in protest of BP's oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. Last month a group called Liberate Tate released black balloons attached to dead fish inside the Tate Modern's main gallery hall. Gallery staff had to shoot them down with air rifles.

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