Crude (2010) – Oil Painting Protest over BP sponsorship in Tate Modern Turbine Hall Liberate Tate calls for footprint of art museum to be free from Big Oil

Oil Painting Protest over BP sponsorship in Tate Modern Turbine Hall
Liberate Tate calls for footprint of art museum to be free from Big Oil

Tuesday (14 September) art activists from Liberate Tate staged a guerrilla art intervention in Tate Modern, covering the floor of the iconic Turbine Hall with dozens of litres of oil paint in protest at the museum taking sponsorship from BP.

The flash mob-style event was staged a day before a Tate Board of Trustees meeting. Liberate Tate are part of a growing public movement calling on Tate’s governing body to end its sponsorship agreement with the oil company. Tate’s Board of Trustees has decided to review the BP corporate sponsorship.

At 5pm, around 50 figures dressed in black entered the gallery each carrying a BP-branded oil paint tube. In a circle they placed the paint tubes on the floor and each stamped on one, spraying out dozens of litres of paint in a huge burst across the floor. The installation art work, ‘Crude’, was then signed ‘Liberate Tate’ and offered to Tate for its collection.

Blake Williams, a participant in the performance, said: “Ten years ago tobacco companies were seen as respectable partners for public institutions. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill has brought home to an even wider public that the impact of big oil companies like BP on the environment and the global climate makes them equally unethical for an art museum, especially one that purports to demonstrate leadership in response to climate change.”

Tate’s latest annual report (2009/10), released this month, claims “sustainability is a prime consideration throughout Tate’s work”. Tate reduced its energy use and overall carbon emissions last year and makes much of its partnership with the Carbon Trust and that it was a founding signatory to the national 10:10 campaign, launched at Tate Modern, aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.

Liberate Tate said: “Tate has so far chosen to take a very narrow view of its footprint in relation to climate change and to not yet take into account its formal relationship with Big Oil. At a time when arts institutions wish to demonstrate how central the arts are in bringing social benefits to all and thus deserving of strong public funding, the museum must accept responsibility for its full impact in society.”

“Tate has a sponsor in BP that is engaged in socially and ecologically destructive activities. This is incompatible with Tate’s ethical guidelines, its stated vision in regard to sustainability and climate change, and for maintaining Tate’s reputation. In addition, its mission is undermined if visitors to Tate galleries cannot enjoy great art without the museum making them complicit in creating climate chaos. We call on the governing body to recognise this and end Tate’s relationship with BP.”

Earlier this year Liberate Tate issued an open invitation for artists, art lovers and other concerned members of the public to act to ensure that Tate ends its oil sponsorship by the end of 2011 ahead of Tate Modern’s expansion into its cleaned out underground oil tanks.

Crude (2010)
Liberate Tate

Oil On Canvas

“You don’t abandon your friends because they have a temporary difficulty.”
- Nicholas Serota, Tate Director

An oil spill is one thing. Destruction of entire ecosystems, massive human rights abuses and millions of deaths from climate change is another thing altogether. BP’s ‘difficulty’ is not temporary; it is fundamental. BP is a climate criminal – pushing our civilisation to the brink of destruction in pursuit of profit. Climate Change kills hundreds of thousands of people a year and will kill many more unless we act immediately and radically to stop it.

BP and the Tate should not be friends. It is long past time for the Tate to abandon BP and renounce its complicity in their crimes.

UK Press Photos can be requested from Rex Features,_britain

US Press can be requested from Rex Features USA,_britain



  1. Thieuvite says:

    wonderful work guys, what a beautiful video. I love the homogeneity of the music on the action that gives a real poetic aspect on the action, which becomes a gorgeous piece of art…

  2. Bah says:

    Should have used organic paint instead.

  3. Phil Holtam says:

    I completely agree with the purpose of this action and admire the creativity of it’s execution. It’s a good point well made. The Tate Modern will take notice. Well done.

    However I object. Essentially, a load of people have made a mess on a floor. Somebody else, probably a cleaner whose perhaps earning minimum wage, will have to clear up on top of their regular responsibilities. Whatever the symbolism of the action, in reality it’s replicating major oil on a micro scale, making a mess and leaving it for others to deal with the consequences. A similar thing occurred outside the NPG last summer during a climate camp action and I remember watching on as a cleaner dealt with the mess after the ‘conscientious’ activists walked away banging their drums.

    Taking action against oil companies is currently one of the crucial components to dealing with the climate problem. It should be positive and infectious rather than irritatingly mucky.

  4. Stephen Meurrens says:

    I can’t imagine London without the TATE MODERN. This action shows what art is about, among many other things, these days! Clear and sometimes crude thinking.

  5. Francesca says:

    good stuff i wish i could have been there in person.
    and in response to phil holtam: this action was an oil spill on a smaller scale. tate thinks they didn’t do a mess by being partners with bp oil. but now artists have created an oil spill on a smaller scale. tate is going to have to clean it up. and i feel this action is posing tate the direct question of: so how does that feel? the oil is spilt, the floor is dirty, and the pb sticker on each paint tube is reminding you of who is causing the real damage.
    of course the cleaners might not have any particular interest in this situation and will be involved unjustly according to you’re thought proccess. that is true, but then again, they are part of tate institution and as tate is being aimed at, they are being hit indirectly. shitty consequences but since this is not about individuals but about institutions thats how it goes.

  6. Tina Figgler says:

    I think this painting is great! I disagree with the person above me who said to use organic paint. I understand it’s best for the environment but it doesn’t give me the same coverage as oil paint.

  7. Faye Thomas says:

    I love the call to action at the end of this video! Did the protest make a difference? What is big oil still involved in oil paintings? Thanks!


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