Connecting through culture | About BP | BP Global

Connecting through culture

BP is a major supporter of UK arts with a history that spans over 35 years. During this time, millions of people have engaged with BP sponsored activities. Through digital media, many of our programmes are now international, so even more people can access outstanding art and culture
BP Big Screens, Trafalgar Square, London BP Big Screens, Trafalgar Square, London

BP's commitment of almost £10 million to extend its partnerships with the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and Tate Britain until 2017, represents one of the most significant corporate investments in UK arts and culture. It ensures that new performances, special events, exhibitions, awards, grants, lectures and access to works of art can continue to reach ever-growing national and international audiences.

Royal Opera House

Dominic Peckham, member of the Royal Opera chorus, leads a Tosca sing-along in Trafalgar Square. Copyright ROH/Elliott Franks
BP and the Royal Opera House began working together in 1988, making this the House's longest corporate partnership and one which is celebrating its 25th anniversary during the 2013-2014 season.

For the last 12 years, BP has supported the free Big Screens live relays of opera and ballet performances direct from Covent Garden to an increasing number of sites across the country. As a result, many more people can now experience the very best of opera and ballet – complete with dramatic plots, passion, intrigue, love, jealousy and revenge – in their home town.

This year's productions feature exclusive backstage films and live interaction with the audience. The screenings are the perfect occasion to share an excellent evening with friends and family – all for free!

In 2014, the Big Screens show productions from The Royal Opera:

  • La Traviata 20 May
    Based on Alexander Dumas fil's play La Dame aux Camélias, Verdi tells the tragic tale of a Parisian courtesan who sacrifices all for love. It remains one of the composer's most popular operas and, among the drama and passion, features memorable melodies.
  • La Bohème 15 July
    A lost key and an accidental touch of cold hands in the dark – so begins one of the great romances of all opera. Puccini's depiction of bohemian nineteenth century Paris has captured audiences around the world, making it one of the best-loved of all operas.
  • Rigoletto 17 September
    Corruption and innocence collide in this remarkable opera. Verdi had to overcome state censorship to stage it – the censors objected to its depiction of an immoral ruler – but he was vindicated by the premiere's huge success in 1851.
La Traviata – a worldwide first to celebrate 25 years
To celebrate 25 years of support from BP, the Royal Opera House streamed the first BP Big Screens of 2014 live online and completely free to 105 countries around the world. This was the first time the Royal Opera House offered opera in real time for free through its website. It was watched by people from the USA to Russia, Guatemala to New Zealand and Chile to Hong Kong.

Royal Opera House

British Museum

Porcelain ewer with underglaze blue decoration
Porcelain ewer with underglaze blue decoration. © The Trustees of the British Museum
BP is the British Museum's longest-standing partner, supporting the public programme on an annual basis since 1996. Over the course of 18 years, BP has backed numerous special exhibitions, most recently the hugely successful Vikings: life and legend. Visited by over 288,000 people, it was the most popular BP exhibition at the British Museum. Other major exhibitions have included Shakespeare: Staging the World and Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings. These and others have enabled over one million visitors to explore important topics including the cultures of ancient Iran, the empire of Hadrian, the workmanship of Michelangelo and ancient Egyptian mummification. BP has also helped with special public events around Chinese New Year and the Mexican Day of the Dead in which over 70,000 people participated.

The next BP exhibition, Ming: 50 years that changed China, runs from 18 September 2014 to 5 January 2015. It explores a golden age in China's history between AD 1400 and 1450. China was a global superpower run by one family – the Ming dynasty – who established Beijing as the capital and built the Forbidden City. 

This was an age of great voyages of exploration, undertaken for many reasons including trade and diplomacy. Long before the regular arrivals of Europeans in China, court-sponsored expeditions were sent to Asia, the Middle East and the African coast, bringing back knowledge and objects from lands thousands of miles away – including gold, gems and foreign fashions. 

Ming artists absorbed these fascinating influences from around the world. Through their impressive craftsmanship, they created some of the world's most beautiful objects and paintings ever made. The exhibition features spectacular objects including exquisite porcelain, gold, jewellery, furniture, paintings, sculpture and textiles from museums across China and the rest of the world. Many have only been discovered recently and some have never been seen outside China.

Find out more about Ming: 50 years that changed China 

Spotlight tour – Made in China: an imperial Ming vase

To complement the exhibition, the British Museum is lending an iconic blue and white Ming vase to four partner museums across the UK. This is in celebration of Chinese collections across the UK, exploring the impact that the Ming dynasty had on the arts in China and across the world

Made in China: an imperial Ming vase
Watch the exhibition trailer

National Portrait Gallery

Man with a Plaid Blanket by Thomas Ganter
Man with a Plaid Blanket by Thomas Ganter © Thomas Ganter
BP is the most enduring supporter of the National Portrait Gallery. Indeed, the Gallery's annual BP Portrait Award, the world's most prestigious competition of its kind, is celebrating its 25th year of sponsorship by BP. Promoting the very best in contemporary portrait painting, the BP Portrait Award has launched the careers of many highly successful portrait artists.

In 2014, Frankfurt artist Thomas Ganter is the winner of the £30,000 first prize – one of the largest for any global arts competitions – for Man with a Plaid Blanket, a striking portrait of a homeless car-windscreen cleaner. Second prize went to Bath-based teacher and artist Richard Twose for Jean Woods, a portrait of the model and star of the documentary Fabulous Fashionistas. Third prize went to Brooklyn-based David Jon Kassan for Letter to my Mom, a portrait of his mother including a written tribute in Hebrew inscribed into the painting.

The connected BP Travel Award gives artists the opportunity to work on portraiture projects in a range of different environments, while the BP Young Artist Award puts a spotlight on highly talented youthful artists.

In 2014, the BP Portrait Award attracted a record-breaking 2,377 entries from artists in 71 countries. Around 300,000 visitors will see the 55 selected paintings during the free exhibition in London and on tour to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens (4 October 2014 - 16 November 2014) and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (28 November - 12 April 2015).

Originally inspired by the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, BP Portrait Award: Next Generation is an exciting project creating free opportunities for 14-19 year olds to engage with portraiture. Encouraging young artists of the future, from first time Gallery visitors to those who want to make art their career, BP Portrait Award: Next Generation links them with other young people interested in portraiture as well as past BP Portrait Award winning artists.

National Portrait Gallery

Tate Britain

Entrance to the BP Walk Through British Art Copyright: Tate Photography
Having worked with Tate Britain since the beginning of 1990, BP is the gallery's oldest corporate partner and celebrates its 25th year in 2014.

BP's support enables Tate Britain to create a broad and dynamic programme of exhibitions and events. The highlight is the important BP Displays which showcase the world's greatest collection of British art. In May 2013, the displays were rehung in a continuous chronological display marking a new era for Tate Britain by creating a walk through time from the 1500s to the present day.

BP Walk through British Art comprises around 500 artworks over a newly configured sequence of over 20 galleries alongside permanent galleries devoted to JMW Turner, William Blake and Henry Moore. A new series of seasonal BP Spotlight collection displays offers more depth on particular artworks, artists or themes.

Recently Tate Britain's major Pre-Raphaelite works including John Everett Millais's Ophelia 1851-2 and Dante Gabriel Rossetti's The Beloved 1865-6 have gone back on display alongside other key works from the movement. Millais's painting, depicting the drowning Ophelia from Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, was a founding work in Tate's collection and has long been one of the nation's most loved paintings.

Our most recent initiative is BP Art Exchange – an international learning project about collaboration and exchange. It connects schools, galleries, artists and cultural institutions worldwide through an exciting social platform.

BP's support also includes BP Saturdays - free festival events and activities at Tate Britain exploring British art and suitable for all ages.

Tate Britain
BP Spotlights
BP Art Exchange