THIS exhibition is brought to you by Guns and Big Oil :

IN February, a group of activists smuggled a 13-foot tall wooden horse inside the British Museum in London.

The morning after they were joined by around a thousand people, who gathered inside the building to protest the oil company BP's sponsorship of an exhibition devoted to the ancient city of Troy.

In New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the New Museum have all seen protests over their links to issues like the oil and arms trade, gentrification and colonialism.

In some cases, trustees have had to leave museum boards in response to the public outrage.

Museums have clearly become a new site of protest. Such protests have often provoke a passionate response from both the public and the art world.

Perhaps this is because they cut to the heart of the art's social value. What. and Whom. are museums for? Another question that these protests raise is why art matters so much - not to the public, or even to museums, but to sponsors and donors.

This year marks the fourth anniversary of a turning point for museum protests and sponsorship.

In 2016, the Tate museum network became the first major cultural institution in Britain to drop fossil fuel funding., following six years of pressure from activists groups primarily led by the collective Liberate Tate, of which I was a member.

Liberate Tate conducted 16 uninvited performances in Tate spaces, including spilling molasses inside Tate Britain in 2010 during an event celebrating BP's sponsorship of the institution and bringing 123 pound chunk of ice harvested from across the Arctic to melt inside Tate Modern in 2012.

Tate's divestment from fossil fuels was followed by similar moves by the National Theater and the Royal Shakespeare Company in Britain, the Mauritishuis in The Hague and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam,

Liberate Tate kicked off a wave of protest performances inside major museums in the United States and Europe and, directed at sponsors, donors and trustees.

These changes suggest that another kind of museums is possible, but only if cultural institutions are willing to challenge and reshape their role in the society.

Sponsors and donors valuation of our public culture is of an order very different from everyone else's.

For big oil, big pharmaceuticals companies and the arms industry, it is not simply a case of doing good. For them sponsorship of the arts is not charity; it is a strategic expenditure.

To conduct their businesses, companies build a web of influence and operation through many of the institutions that are often clustered in the cities, through which they become enmeshed in our lives.

London, for example, is one of the main financial centers for the oil industry. Oil companies must extract from the city a combination of services, so that elsewhere they may continue to extract, refine, transport and sell oil.

This is a matter not only of buying financial services from private companies, but of creating legal, political and technical leverages; facilitating clearance from regulators ; gaining support from government departments or legal permission for new projects.

Cultural institutions are a key part of this infrastructure into which businesses must insinuate themselves to establish an air of social legitimacy and acceptability for practices that might otherwise risk coming into question.

The honor and serving of the latest writing on world and opinion, continues. The World Students Society thanks author, Gavin Grindon.


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