Calls for climate change have swept the world recently, and museums have begun responding. Earlier this year, Tate in London declared a “climate emergency,” and now another major U.K. institution has responded to threats of global warming by altering its programming.
The National Galleries of Scotland, which comprise Edinburgh’s Scottish National Gallery, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, said on Monday that the 2019 BP Portrait Award exhibition will be the last time the institution hosts the show “in its present form.” Set to open at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on December 7, the presentation is supported by BP, an oil company that regularly sponsors art programming in the United Kingdom.
In a statement posted to its website, the National Galleries Scotland said, “For many people, the association of this competition with BP is seen as being at odds” with demands for a greener future, adding, “we recognize that we have a responsibility to do all we can to address the climate emergency.”
The BP Portrait Award, which is also given at the National Portrait Gallery in London, is now in its tenth year at the National Galleries Scotland. In July, 78 British artists, including Anish Kapoor, Sarah Lucas, and Rachel Whiteread, signed an open letter demanding that England’s National Portrait Gallery end its relationship with BP.
Alys Mumford, a member of BP or Not BP? in Scotland, said in a post on the activist group’s site, “This is a massive win for campaigners who have taken action against the BP Portrait Award being hosted in Scotland for several years. It sends a clear message that it is no longer socially acceptable to have links with the fossil fuel industry because of their continued role in driving the climate crisis and human rights abuses across the world.”
The National Galleries Scotland’s decision follows similar steps taken by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Edinburgh Science Festival, which discontinued their partnerships with BP this year. Meanwhile, the British Museum in London has continually come out in favor of receiving funding from the oil company—something that led, in part, to the resignation of a board member earlier this year.
In a statement to ARTnews, BP said, “The exhibitions outside of London are a popular and successful part of the BP Portrait Award each year. . . .The increasing polarization of debate and attempts to exclude companies committed to being a part of the energy transition is exactly what is not needed. This global challenge needs everyone—companies, governments, and individuals—to work together to achieve a low carbon future.”