National Galleries Scotland has announced that it was ending its partnership with the oil company BP in response to the climate emergency with this year’s BP Portrait Award being the last in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
A spokesperson for the gallery said:
“The BP Portrait Award 2019 exhibition opens on 7 December at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. At the National Galleries of Scotland we recognise that we have a responsibility to do all we can to address the climate emergency. For many people, the association of this competition with BP is seen as being at odds with that aim.
“Therefore, after due consideration, the Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland have decided that this will be the last time that the galleries will host this exhibition in its present form.”
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh’s Queen Street was opened in 1889 and is free to visit.
Campaigners in Edinburgh have targeted the award on its previous annual visits to the Scottish Portrait Gallery. The creative action group ‘BP or not BP? Scotland’ have performed several times inside the gallery, including with oily portraits and climate-themed Christmas carolling.
Campaigners believe that the prestigious portrait prize is being used by the oil giant to ‘artwash’ its image and distract from its real destructive activities. One of the judges of this year’s prize, Gary Hume, spoke out against the BP branding when this year’s award was announced, and was joined in his criticism by 77 other artists including five Turner Prize winners.
Alys Mumford, from BP or not BP? Scotland said:
“It is extremely significant that yet another major Scottish cultural institution has dropped fossil fuel sponsorship, following the Edinburgh International Festival in 2015 and the Edinburgh Science Festival earlier this year.
“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.
“We hope that the few remaining institutions that allow themselves to be used as greenwash for the industry join the National Galleries on the right side of history’
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is the second Edinburgh institution to reject fossil fuel sponsors this year, following the Edinburgh Science Festival’s announcement in April that it will not accept sponsorship from oil companies.