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By: Art Not Oil
Date: Tue, 26/03/2013 - 12:00am

Britain brings Old Masters back to Britain after 234 years


BP is to sponsor a new exhibition of lost masterpieces, which are returning to the UK after 234 years.

The paintings, which originally hung at Houghton Hall in Norfolk, were brought together by Britain's first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole in the 1720s.

Over 70 pieces, including works by Van Dyck and Rembrandt - sold in 1779 to Catherine the Great of Russia, will be on display from 17 May 2013.

However, campaigners Art Not Oil called BP's involvement "a great shame".

The works are on loan from the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and other Russian museums, as well as the National Gallery in Washington and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

"There is a geopolitical element to BP's choice of sponsorship," activist Sam Chase told the BBC.

"It needs to maintain good relations with Russia, for example, so pumps money into Russian cultural life."

BP have invested over £10 million in partnerships with the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House, and Tate Britain.

In 2011, demonstrations took place outside Tate Britain in protest at BP's sponsorship and an 8,000-strong petition was handed to the Tate calling for an end to the partnership.

BP also sponsors a number of leading Russian cultural institutions including the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

The organisers of the exhibition said without BP's sponsorship they "would not be able to realise such an ambitious project".

Following his death, Walpole's collection left Britain in 1779, sold to Russia for £40,555.

The prime minister spent lavishly during his lifetime, leaving his family with a sizable debt, equivalent today to around £6 million.

Thierry Morel, the curator of Houghton Revisited, described Houghton Hall as "a temple built to house the collection".

The house is now owned by Walpole's descendent, the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, who inherited the Grade I listed building in 1990.

Their return is "something I have always imagined," Lord Cholmondeleytold the FT.

"Everything else is here: the furniture, the bronzes, the marble antiquities - the pictures were the missing ingredients."

The works will hang in their original positions in the house for the exhibition, Houghton Revisited.


And here's the quote we sent to the BBC:


'It seems a great shame that this extraordinary collection of paintings is
being harnessed to prop up the reputation of BP, a company deeply embedded
in social and ecological wrongdoing. Some might argue that it is acting
altruistically, but could it be that without these acts of sponsorship, BP
and companies like it would swiftly come to be regarded as beyond the pale
in a society that professes to stand for peace, justice and ecological

It might also be worth pointing out that there is a geopolitical element
to BP's choice of sponsorship: it needs to maintain good relations with
Russia, for example, so pumps money into Russian cultural life. And it
would be great to find out how BP will be using the exhibition itself to
wine and dine top Russian folk.

Oh, and I'd also like to point out that there is more than enough wealth
available, even during this current economic crisis, to cover everyone's
basic needs, (of which art is one)...It would need a significant
redirection of state funds, admittedly, starting with the scrapping of
Trident, as well as a more equitable distribution of wealth and power. No
small task, that!
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By: Art Not Oil
Date: Thu, 07/03/2013 - 12:00am

Terrific Greenpeace visit to National Gallery:

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/annus-horribilis-new-works-oi…It's worth highlighting perhaps the fact that Shell is a Corporate Member of the NG: memberhttp://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/about-us/support-the-gallery/corporat…
Tags: Archive
By: Art Not Oil
Date: Tue, 05/03/2013 - 12:00am

Interval interrupted at Shell Classic International concert, as "Shell Out Sounds" sing their opposition to oil sponsorship

On the evening of Friday 1st March 2013, a group of singers and musicians called "Shell Out Sounds" (SOS) made an unexpected musical intervention at the Southbank Centre, during the interval of a Shell-sponsored performance by members of the Berliner Philharmoniker and guests. The 16-strong "flashmob choir" sang a sombre version of "Down to the River to Pray", the lyrics rewritten to depict the sadness and woe Shell inflicts on the world. The group handed out flyers to audience members, many of whom stopped to listen and applauded at the end of the song. The Southbank Centre security guards did not attempt to stop the surprise performance.

This was the first public performance by Shell Out Sounds. The new group brings together musicians and singers who are concerned about Shell sponsorship of the Southbank Centre. This is due to the oil giant’s significant contribution to climate change, its highly environmentally-destructive exploitation of the Canadian tar sands, its fracking operations around the world, its ongoing polluting activities in Nigeria and its controversial attempts to drill in the Arctic. The pop-up choir were all dressed in black with purple sashes, and sang from memory in three-part harmony. Each verse described the suffering of a community affected by Shell’s operations in Canada, Nigeria and Alaska, and concluded with the refrain “Oh, Shell, not your name; No more oil, no more pain; Oh, Shell not your name; Art not in your name!”

Shell has sponsored the Classic International series of concerts at the Southbank Centre since 2007. But oil industry sponsorship of the arts has become an increasingly controversial issue. Over the last year BP’s sponsorship of the Tate galleries, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the British Museum have been targeted by a series of high-profile performance-based protest interventions by Liberate Tate and the Reclaim Shakespeare Company. Prominent members of the art and theatre world have also spoken out in criticism. Most recently, the Guardian reports that composers Matthew Herbert and Steve Martland have expressed concerns about Shell sponsorship of classical music, and over 100 musicians and music-lovers signed an open letter to the Southbank Centre’s CEO Alan Bishop calling for the relationship with Shell to end, including Jem Finer (founding member of The Pogues), composer and musicologist Leigh Landy, and Caroline Lucas MP. 

Christopher Garrard, composer and member of Shell Out Sounds said:

“We are all passionate supporters of the Southbank Centre but our arts institutions should provide the space for confronting injustice, not concealing it. Shell’s activities must not slip through the net. The amount of money the Southbank gets from corporate sponsorship is a fraction of its overall income – only 5 per cent in 2011. The excellence of the world’s best performers is being bought by Shell for a small price, drawing the public’s attention away from the damage they are perpetrating to people and the environment in Nigeria, Canada and Alaska. Tobacco sponsorship was banned, and cultural institutions and sporting events have survived without it. The same can be true of oil.”

Emily Coats, who sang in the Shell Out Sounds performance said:

“Arts and culture inspire, critique, and illuminate, and should be enjoyed by everyone. The arts need to be supported and nurtured for their own sake, not used as pawns by oil companies to boost the image of their operations in some of the world’s most destructive projects. If oil companies received fewer subsidies and contributed their fair share of taxes, the government would have more than enough to adequately fund the arts.”

Shell Out Sounds are planning more such interventions at the Southbank Centre, which this summer will host the Yoko Ono-curated “Meltdown Festival”. Ono is a vocal critic of the “fracking” method of extracting gas, in which Shell is heavily involved.

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