Anti-oil activists blocked entrances to the opening party of the British Museum’s new ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’ exhibition, protesting its sponsorship by the oil giant BP. Demonstrators from the climate justice organization BP or Not BP? dressed as ‘living statues’ of Greek deities – covered in oil – and confronted guests at the museum last night.
Alongside other characters from Greek mythology such as Achilles and Athena, the group added their own invention: one activist dressed as ‘Petroleus’, wearing a robe smeared with oil and a BP badge. He began to pour oil on other activists as guests arrived at the British Museum, accompanied by the sounds of a Greek chorus singing ‘We foresee the fall of BP!’. The group claimed that their blockade forced the launch party to be relocated.
Sophie McIntosh, a performer with BP or Not BP?, said in a statement: ‘The company sponsors the museum in order to look like a generous gift-giver that cares about culture but, in reality, it’s a cynical attempt to deflect attention from something far more sinister. As the climate crisis intensifies, BP is still 97 percent invested in fossil fuels and plans to spend billions searching for new oil that we can’t afford to burn.’
Earlier this week, an artist included in the exhibition, Reem Alsayyah, published an open letter to the British Museum trustees and director Hartwig Fischer, condemning BP’s connection to the exhibition. Alsayyah and film director Zoe Lafferty said that it was ‘devastating’ that their work had been used to ‘artwash’ the oil company. Meanwhile the head of BP in the UK and Europe, Peter Mather, told Sky News that it was wrong to ‘demonise’ the firm in the climate change debate, and that BP could be ‘very much part of the solution and part of the future’.
Don’t miss Mel Evans writing in frieze on the arts community’s responsiblity to address the climate crisis: ‘as long as the oil companies benefit from the shiny glow of the country’s most-loved cultural institutions, they will continue to maintain their outdated business model and refuse to do the right thing by the climate’.