Shell’s two year tenure as sponsor of the Natural History Museum’s ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ exhibition has come to an end. A determined, creative two year national campaign, coordinated in part by the direct action group Rising Tide and its Art Not Oil(1) campaign, has been underway throughout those two years.
Using a combination of direct action (often in the guise of angry polar bears) and a ‘Shell’s Wild Lie’ exhibition(2), Rising Tide has been pressurising the Museum and partner BBC Wildlife magazine to acknowledge that one of the world’s largest oil companies is not a good sponsor for what has become an extraordinarily powerful testament to the beauty, diversity - not to mention fragility - of the natural world.(3)
It now appears that this pressure has paid off…
London Rising Tide’s Sam Chase said: ‘We are delighted that the Natural History Museum has seen sense and bid farewell to Shell in what must rank as the most absurd and appalling sponsorship deal ever seen. Now it’s time for the Museum to turn down cash from climate-destroying companies like BP, BA(7) and Shell(4), and for cultural institutions across London and the UK to do the same.’
‘The oil industry is fuelling war and destroying our future, as well as the lives and of countless living beings right now. For that reason, and because climatically conscious grassroots art is needed now more than ever, we will keep on keeping on with our Art Not Oil campaign.’
1.) Art Not Oil has been running since 2004. It stands for ‘creativity, climate justice and an end to oil industry sponsorship of arts and culture’. It has acted as a beacon for artists worldwide who are committed to using their creativity positively, and is a hub for protest against the oil industry appropriation of UK cultural institutions for the sake of much-needed greenwash. Its 2008 online gallery is now open for submissions; www.artnotoil.org,uk
2.) London Rising Tide’s ‘Shell’s Wild Lie’ exhibition will tour the UK and Europe through 2008 and beyond. And it can be found here: http://www.artnotoil.org.uk/gallery/v/Shell/
3.) 'Shell: the evidence': http://www.artnotoil.org.uk//content/view/23/2/
4.) a] Both Shell and BP are Corporate Members of the NHM at the ‘Leader’ level, meaning they donate £25,000 or more per year. BA gives £10,000 per year. (Art Not Oil believes the entire system of corporate funding of the arts to be deeply flawed, though its focus is on oil industry funding.)
Current Prime Minister-appointed NHM Trustees include Louise Charlton of Brunswick Group, the public relations firm contracted in 2004 by Shell to carry out PR damage limitation in the wake of its reserves-reporting scandal, and Sir William Castell, non-executive director of BP. Conflicts of interest like these are rife right across the UK’s leading cultural institution.
5.) Pictures of protests at the NHM and Bristol Museum are available on request, or by visiting http://www.artnotoil.org.uk/gallery/v/ShellAction/ or
Fed Up Polar Bear Disrupts National BBC Wildlife Magazine HQ, Bristol, Dec ’07: http://bristol.indymedia.org/newswire.php?story_id=27160 or
December 2007 Actions at Bristol Museum: http://onthelevelblog.wordpress.com/2007/12/16/direct-action-in-bristol-reveals-shells-greenwash/ or
London Rising Tide protesters die at the Tate Britain, 4.1.08: http://www.londonrisingtide.org.uk/node/409
6.) Friends of the Earth has also been running a campaign against the Shell deal:
7.) ‘March of the penguins: climate activists protest at British Airways ice (sh)rink’: http://www.planestupid.com/?q=content/march-penguins-climate-activists-protest-british-airways-ice-rink