This morning three members of the art activist group Culture Beyond Oil poured non-toxic black oil around the British Museum’s world famous Easter Island sculpture, in protest at BP’s sponsorship of the museum.
Emily James, Director of Just Do It, happened to be there and captured the action.
Following similar actions at the Tate Modern, Tate Britain and National Portrait Gallery in recent weeks, the activists targeted the British Museum because of the annual sponsorship it receives from the infamous oil company. Check out Art Not Oil for similar oily complaints.
A recent report called ‘Licence to Spill’ from the campaign group Platform has pointed to the benefits of cultural sponsorship for oil companies, stating that “the ﬁnancial support that the companies [like Shell and BP] provide [to cultural institutions] strengthens their position as a part of Britain’s cultural and social elite, and creates a perception of making a positive contribution to our society”, thus giving them a “social license to operate”.
The statue around which the oil was poured* is known as Hoa Hakananai’a, a 2000 year old relic taken from Easter Island by European explorers. The story of the Easter Island statues is often cited as an example of the speed with which once strong civilizations have suddenly collapsed.
Ben Cooper, who is also part of Liberate Tate, said: “Oil sponsorship of public institutions is a problem that stretches way beyond BP and the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil industry has a long history of environmental and human rights abuses, and is currently pulling us closer and closer to a potential catastrophe on a global scale.”
“Just like the forests on Easter Island, oil represents a resource being over-exploited despite massively increasing risks. With our relentless search for oil we are risking the collapse of the ecosystems on which we depend – just as the inhabitants of Easter Island did 2000 years ago”.
*NB: The activists were careful not to pour oil on the sculpture itself, which is seated on a modern stone plinth.
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