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BP and leading UK cultural institutions extend partnerships with 10 million sponsorship

Release date:
18 December 2011

Four of the UK’s major cultural institutions - the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House, and Tate Britain - today announced the renewal and extension of their long-standing partnerships with BP.

In total, BP will invest almost £10 million in the four partnerships over the next five years. Taken together, these agreements represent one of the most significant long-term corporate investments in UK arts and culture.

The renewal and expansion of the partnerships were announced today in the BP Lecture Theatre in the British Museum in London, at an event attended by Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries and Iain Conn, managing director of BP, together with Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery and Nicholas Serota, Director Tate.

Each of the four institutions has a long-standing partnership with BP - most stretching back over 20 years - which the new agreements will extend for a further five years, out to 2017. The increased level of funding from BP will also allow them to further develop their programmes and extend access to wider audiences.

Providing secure funding and building long-term relationships with partner institutions is a key approach in BP’s support of the arts and culture in the UK. This helps underpin the institutions’ long-term development of programmes of exhibitions and performances, helping them to secure performers, artists and works of art well into the future.

Since the beginning of the institutions’ partnerships with BP:

  • Over 30 million people have visited Tate Britain and enjoyed the refreshed BP British Art Displays.
  • Over 1.2 million people have attended a BP special exhibition at the British Museum.
  • Over 3 million people have visited the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery which, in total, has attracted around 30,000 entries to the competition from more than 80 countries.
  • With the Royal Opera House, the BP Summer Big Screens programme has extended from one initial location in London in 2000 to 21 locations across the UK in 2011, providing thousands of people access to free world class ballet and opera.

In total, over 3 million people across the UK engaged with BP-supported arts and cultural activities in 2011. As a Premier Partner of the London 2012 Festival, BP is also helping to showcase the UK’s cultural excellence and diversity to an even wider audience.




Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries:

“BP’s renewed commitment to four of Britain’s great cultural institutions is extremely welcome. This is a significant investment, with £10 million going directly towards the staging of world-class exhibitions and performances. For more than 20 years, BP has led the way in business support for the arts, and I am delighted that this will continue over the next five years.”

Iain Conn, BP managing director:

“BP is a worldwide company operating in all five continents and headquartered here in the UK.  I believe that everywhere we operate we should seek to contribute to the wider community and not only through our business activities.  It is important to us that we make a meaningful contribution to society here in the UK. Our work with these partner institutions is a major part of this - enabling people around the country and the world to connect through the experience of outstanding exhibitions and performances, promoting ideas and encouraging creativity.”

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum:

“Thanks to BP’s longstanding support well over one million visitors to the British Museum have been able to get close to Michelangelo, discover the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, experience Chinese New Year and understand Ancient Persia. BP’s renewed commitment to the Museum allows us to ensure that our six million visitors a year will continue to have the opportunity to experience important loan exhibitions for the next five years. We are hugely grateful to BP for their ongoing support.”

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery:

“The National Portrait Gallery greatly welcomes the announcement of BP’s support for the Portrait Award for the next five years. It is wonderful news for all those, whether visitors or artists, who want to create or admire the very best of portrait painting from around the world.”

Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House:

"I am extremely thrilled that BP has committed to a further five years with the Royal Opera House. The way in which the partnership has grown and developed over the past 23 years is extraordinary - we reached more than 40,000 people this year through our free BP Summer Big Screens, and have worked with many, many more people over the years through various education activities.

“The surety of increased funding going forward for a further five years helps us to plan ahead with great confidence, something even more valuable at this time of economic uncertainty. It's great that we can continue to inspire audiences with world class opera and ballet across the UK, where they live, for free."

Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate:

“BP has been one of the most long-standing supporters of the arts and the announcement today demonstrates a continuing commitment to the cultural life of this country. Over the past twenty years BP's sponsorship of Tate Britain has allowed us to do far more with the way we display our Collection. From showing historic masterpieces to presenting the latest developments in contemporary art, the BP British Art displays make both the famous and the lesser-known works of British art accessible to a variety of audiences. Over 30 million people have come to Tate Britain to view collection displays in the past 22 years. BP's continued support over the next five years will be vital as we rehang the displays in 2013 following completion of major building works.”

Colin Tweedy, CEO of Arts & Business:

“Throughout the 35 year history of Arts & Business, one business has been alongside the arts throughout, developing sustainable, innovative and creative partnerships.

We are delighted that BP is to renew its support of The National Portrait Gallery, The British Museum, Royal Opera House and Tate Britain for another five years. BP’s support enables the arts to illuminate so many lives across the UK.  

Arts & Business, on behalf of the arts community and our wider communities must thank BP – a pioneering corporate investor in UK arts and culture. The arts world is much richer with BP.”


National Portrait Gallery


BP is the longest-standing supporter of the National Portrait Gallery.

The Portrait Award, now in its thirty-third year at the National Portrait Gallery and twenty-third year of sponsorship by BP, is the most prestigious portrait competition in the world.

Promoting the very best in contemporary portrait painting, the BP Portrait Award has proved the launchpad of the careers of many successful portrait artists and the connected BP Travel Award, has given artists the opportunity to work on portraiture projects in a range of different environments.

In 2011 the exhibition received a record 341,050 visitors, the highest ever for an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It also received a record number of entries in 2011 - 2,372 portraits by artists from 65 countries across the world. The exhibition of the award winners and selected entries is being shown in Wolverhampton and Aberdeen as well as at the Gallery in London.

In addition, in 2010 the BP Portrait Award: Next Generation was launched to engage young people with portraiture. Established as part of the Cultural Olympiad and its finale, the London 2012 Festival, the BP Portrait Award: Next Generation will provide a permanent artistic legacy by encouraging young artists of the future.


Royal Opera House

BP’s commitment to a further five years in partnership with the Royal Opera House builds on a long and fruitful relationship which will reach almost thirty years by 2017; the longest-standing partnership of any corporate partner with the Royal Opera House.

BP and the Royal Opera House began work together in partnership in 1988 with BP’s sponsorship of a variety of educational and outreach initiatives including BP Behind the Scenes Week and BP Schools’ Matinees. BP’s commitment has grown over years but both education and accessibility have remained key, making opera and ballet available to as many people as possible and at little or no cost.

For the last 11 years, BP has supported the free Big Screen live relays of opera and ballet direct from Covent Garden to an increasing number of sites across the country. This enables the Royal Opera House to reach as many people as possible with exhilarating live performances, allowing them to experience the very best of opera and ballet in their home town for free.

This year there were 39 screenings across 21 locations, two ballets and one opera. Each live screening is introduced by a host and enhanced with behind-the-scenes footage of dancers or singers preparing for the big performance. With the development of digital technologies, audiences now have the opportunity to interact with competitions and twitter feeds, and even a hum-a-long.

This will continue with additional commitment to Thurrock where the Royal Opera House works closely in the community and in collaboration with BBC Screens and festivals to maximise opportunities to widen audience reach. BP’s sponsorship will also provide additional support to the Royal Opera House’s education and engagement work with communities across the UK.

In 2012, BP is also supporting a unique collaboration between the Royal Opera House and The Olympic Museum in Lausanne in celebration of the London 2012 Festival. A free exhibition entitled The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games will be hosted at the ROH for the duration of the Olympics telling the story of the great Olympians through the ages with many artefacts being shown in London for the very first time.


The British Museum

BP is the British Museum’s most longstanding partner, supporting the Museum’s public programme on an annual basis since 1996. The renewal of BP's support means the British Museum can ensure that visitors continue to have the opportunity to experience stimulating and important exhibitions right through to 2017.

Over the course of 15 years BP has supported numerous special exhibitions as title sponsor, most recently the hugely successful Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings and Journey through the Afterlife: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead exhibitions. Over one million visitors have been able to explore important topics such as the cultures of ancient Iran, the empire of Hadrian, the workmanship of Michelangelo and ancient Egyptian mummification. BP has also supported special public events at the British Museum around Chinese New Year and the Mexican Day of the Dead in which over 70,000 people participated.

BP’s renewed support means the British Museum can extend its successful exhibition programme on site and BP will be the title sponsor of the Museum’s first exhibition in the new World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre which opens in 2014. The exhibition will comprise a major survey of Viking culture which will offer a new perspective to a well-known aspect of early European history.

The British Museum is committed to ensuring its collection can be seen by the widest possible world public and BP also supports the Museum in its national and international work. ’China: Journey to the East’ was the largest exhibition of ancient Chinese material to be seen outside London, enjoyed by over 400,000 visitors across 6 UK venues thanks to the support of BP. This has been the most popular British Museum UK touring exhibition to date and has recently been extended to encompass one further venue. BP also plans to support the British Museum’s international touring programme next year.

The British Museum’s major exhibition offering for the Olympic year is ‘Shakespeare: staging the world’, in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company. BP will be the title sponsor of the exhibition, which is part of the London 2012 Festival and the World Shakespeare Festival, offering our visitors a unique vision of London in the Olympic year.


Tate Britain

BP has supported Tate’s permanent collection displays at Millbank since 1990, first at the Tate Gallery and then from the opening of Tate Britain in 2000 to the present. 2012 will be BP's 23rd year of support of Tate, making BP the longest standing sponsor at Tate.

BP's continued support allows Tate Britain to create a broad and dynamic programme of displays which explores British art from 1500 to the present. In the last year, this has enabled Tate Britain to reshape its collection displays, including a chronological walk through the 20th century of British Art, and focus displays looking in more depth at diverse themes such as Rubens and Britain, the renowned war photographer Don McCullin, and a rehang of the Clore gallery entitled 'The Romantics'.

Highlights have included the hugely popular BP Summer Exhibition: Hockney on Turner Watercolour, in which David Hockney presented his own selection of Turner's unique colour studies and provided commentary on the artist's techniques.

BP's support will continue to focus on the BP British Art Displays over the next five years, during which Tate Britain will present an ambitious and dynamic rehang of the collection displays as the refurbished galleries re-open in 2013. BP will also be sponsoring a major international online project.

Tate’s pioneering work to engage children and young people has also benefited from BP’s generous support including the series of BP Saturdays - free festival events at Tate Britain exploring British art for all ages and the Tate Movie Project, an animated film made by and for children in a collaboration between Tate and Aardman with additional support from the BBC.

Over 35,000 children actively participated in The Tate Movie Project, making it the winner of a Guinness World Record for the most individual contributions to an animated film. The Tate Movie Project is part of the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival.

The final film was the winner of a Guinness World Record for the most individual contributions to an animated film and the project also won the BAFTA ‘Interactive’ award in the 2011 British Academy Children’s Awards. BP also supported a Tate Movie Project event at Trafalgar Square as part of the Open Weekend celebrations in the run up to the Olympic Games.

Further information




Hannah Boulton, Press office, British Museum, 020 7323 8522, hboulton@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk


Eleanor Macnair, Press office, National Portrait Gallery, 020 7321 6620, emacnair@npg.org.uk


Elizabeth Bell, Royal Opera House, Head of Corporate Communications, 0207 212 9717, elizabeth.bell@roh.org.uk


Helen Beeckmans, Tate press office, 0207 887 8730, pressoffice@tate.org.uk


David Nicholas, BP press office, 020 7496 4708, nicholdh@bp.com