Climate activists protested outside the National Portrait Gallery last night, saying the BP Portrait Award allows the oil giant to divert attention away from its environmental record.
This time last year, the Deepwater Horizon oil well was pumping tens of thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day. The campaign group Facing the Gulf submitted 14 portraits of people from the area to the contest (none were selected) in an attempt to get the NPG to reconsider its financial links with BP.
The thing is, can the arts really manage without getting into bed with corporate sponsors? Arts Council funding has been reduced by nearly 15%, leaving organisations with little choice but to seek philanthropy or to start 'fostering partnerships', as business-report-speak has it. In an ideal world, arts programmes wouldn't consider companies with dodgy human rights or environmental records; but how many ethical companies have the sort of cash to fund a £25,000 prize, which is what the BP Portrait Award carries?