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Van Gogh Museum Pulls Plug on Shell Sponsorship

The Mauritshuis in The Hague also joins the Amsterdam institution in ending funding from the oil and gas company

Fossil Free Culture, Beyond Insanity, 2016, performance view, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Courtesy: Fossil Free Culture; photograph: Laura Ponchel

Fossil Free Culture, Beyond Insanity, 2016, performance view, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Courtesy: Fossil Free Culture; photograph: Laura Ponchel

Fossil Free Culture, Beyond Insanity, 2016, performance view, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Courtesy: Fossil Free Culture; photograph: Laura Ponchel

Two major Dutch arts institutions, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Mauritshuis in The Hague, have ended long-term sponsorship deals with the oil and gas giant Shell. The company says that the decision was ‘mutual’. It has sponsored the Van Gogh Museum for 18 years, and the Mauritshuis for six. Director of the Van Gogh Museum Axel Rüger thanked Shell for its support, describing it as ‘an extremely rewarding collaboration.’

A spokesperson for the Mauritshuis confirmed that their partnership would ‘not be renewed’. It was due to expire in July. However, a recent museum report had stated that Shell funding was ‘crucial’ for its long-term future, according to The Art Newspaper. The company had been funding research into paintings by Jan Steen.

The museums’s halt to Shell funding follows rising criticism of oil companies’s presence in arts institutions, and protests from fossil-free activists. The organization Fossil Free Culture said that it ‘would like to think that the museums made ethical decisions.’ Recent actions have included the protest group smearing the Van Gogh Museum with oily hand-prints, and dripping oil through its galleries.

Don’t miss artist and campaigner with Liberate Tate, Mel Evans, discussing her work in calling for London’s Tate to drop BP as a sponsor, and the challenge for artists and activists facing today’s environmental challenges: ‘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.’

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