Contributing writer for The Artifice.
Junior Contributor I
'Unethical' Funding in the Arts: justifiable or justly criticized?
The artist collective Liberate Tate ((link) has been campaigning against the funding of the Tate museums by BP (oil company) since 2010. They have staged multiple controversial and somewhat harrowing performance pieces in protest against their funding of the arts, many of which have been staged in Tate museums themselves. One piece staged an ‘exorcism’ of the ‘evil spirit’ of BP from Tate by a priest and his choir. But does the issue really justify these terms? Can funding by an oil company really be considered the ‘evil spirit’ in these arts institutions when, surely, even when it is ‘expelled’, the arts doesn’t become a holy realm, considering historical tendencies of the Western art tradition in general towards elitism, sexism, racial discrimination etc etc.? If BP is an ‘evil’ company, what is a good one? who can be considered worthy of funding the arts? And considering the widespread cuts to government art funding, can the art world afford to be picky about its funding? Ultimately, is it better not to have funding in the arts than to have the arts funded by an oil company? The efforts of Liberate Tate could be used as a springboard into a discussion regarding the funding of the arts, and even particular exhibitions, in general – an aspect that isn’t often considered – examining the ethical problems that may arise depending who the funding is provided by and how that might or should affect our reception of the art.