Tate, Royal Shakespeare Company, National Portrait Gallery, and Royal Opera House have all cut fossil fuel ties over the years, but the British Museum has remained impervious to criticism throughout.
In previous years, sponsorship renewals have been announced months in advance, but this time the museum is maintaining silence, despite several media requests.
Due to Covid, the latest BP contract was extended, but a copy obtained by Culture Unstained shows the amendment as lasting until the end of the 5th sponsored exhibition or the end of 2023, whichever is sooner. On 23rd February the Hieroglyphs BP-sponsored exhibition ended, marking (at least on paper) that the sponsorship arrangement with BP must now be over.
In the absence of any public announcement, activists are waiting for official confirmation from the museum, and on Saturday supporters of BP or not BP? held a small protest and tried to deliver a letter to the museum director Fischer Hartwig.
The museum has generally facilitated the many protests that have taken place there, but on Saturday there was an unusual lack of co-operation. Security staff surrounded protesters, often barring their movements, journalists were searched, and the manager even refused to accept the letter for the museum director, telling the group to use the nearest post box.
As the British Museum is being tight-lipped about BP, a concern is that the uncharacteristic clampdown on protest may be the beginning of a new approach and might even be a pre-emptive response ahead of an unwelcome sponsorship announcement.
Watch this space.