Greenpeace Activists Hit V&A; Dismantle Car to Protest VW Sponsorship

Ahead of the museum’s ‘The Future Starts Here’ exhibition, eco-activists protested the sponsor’s production of diesel cars

Greenpeace protest, V&A, London, 2018. Courtesy: Greenpeace; photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe

Greenpeace protest, V&A, London, 2018. Courtesy: Greenpeace; photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe

Greenpeace protest, V&A, London, 2018. Courtesy: Greenpeace; photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe

Activists from Greenpeace hit London’s Victoria and Albert Museum yesterday, in a protest over German automanufacturer Volkswagen’s sponsorship of the new exhibition ‘The Future Starts Here’, which opens this weekend. Protesters initiated a ‘fringe exhibition’ in which they dismantled a VW Golf car in the V&A courtyard. They called their action ‘The Future Doesn’t Start Here.’

Greenpeace are running a ‘Ditch Diesel’ campaign calling on VW to abandon diesel cars, and invest in electric instead. The company currently produces a fifth of the diesel cars sold in the UK. Greenpeace’s protest at the V&A aimed to reveal the pollution-producing components of the car beneath its polished surface, and was inspired by the ‘car deconstruction’ works of the artist Dina Rončević.

The V&A exhibition straddles design and technology, and promises to ‘bring together more than 100 objects as a landscape of possibilities for the near future’ from ‘smart appliances to satellites, artificial intelligence to internet culture.’ Greenpeace activist Rosie Strickland said, ‘this exhibition is all about futuristic technologies, but VW, its sponsor, is clinging onto dirty diesel tech despire the known impact on people’s health and the climate.’

Greenpeace protest, V&A, London, 2018. Courtesy: Greenpeace; photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe

Greenpeace protest, V&A, London, 2018. Courtesy: Greenpeace; photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe

Greenpeace protest, V&A, London, 2018. Courtesy: Greenpeace; photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe

In a statement sent to frieze, the V&A said that it ‘fully supports the public right to peaceful protest. As a non-profit organisation, we rely on self-generated income to maintain our major programme of building and renovation projects, exhibitions, acquisitions and education. We are thankful for Volkswagen’s generous support of ‘The Future Starts Here’.’

Museum sponsorship has long been the focus of protests and public action – especially concerning BP’s presence in UK cultural institutions. Liberate Tate campaigner Mel Evans wrote for frieze last year about protesting oil sponsorship in the gallery. The challenge for today’s artists and activists, she argues, is ‘not merely to make art about the political, or even within the social, but to make art that can radically alter the social and political possibilities presented to us.’

Meanwhile across the Atlantic, over recent months the photographer Nan Goldin has been running a campaign against the descendants of Raymond and Mortimer Sackler – owners of opioid manufactuers Purdue Pharma – and the US arts institutions which have benefited from their philanthropy. In frieze, writer Rafia Zakaria looks at what a recent Goldin-led protest at the Met tells us about arts patronage and complicity in the US’s opioid crisis.

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