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BP and leading UK cultural institutions extend partnerships for a further five years

Release date:
28 July 2016
Four of the UK’s major cultural institutions - the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company - have renewed their long-standing partnerships with BP from 2018

In total BP will invest around £7.5 million for a range of projects in the four partnerships over five years continuing its leadership role as one of the most significant long-term corporate investors in UK arts and culture.


BP has provided secure long-term funding to each of the four organisations over many years, three of them for more than 20 years, which has helped them to plan and sustain access to arts and culture including exhibitions, performances and learning and participation activities, of the very highest quality. 


Since the beginning of the institutions’ partnerships with BP:


  • Over 3.8 million people have attended a BP supported British Museum exhibition, display or activity
  • Over 6 million people have visited the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery and tour venues throughout the UK which, in total, has attracted over 35,300 entries to the competition from more than 100 countries
  • Over half a million people across the country have enjoyed free BP Big Screen relays of live performances of world-class opera and ballet direct from the Royal Opera House, and many more have participated in learning and participation projects from Aberdeen to London and beyond
  • Over 62,000 tickets have been sold as part of the RSC’s BP £5 ticket scheme for 16-25 year olds

In total over 50 million people have engaged with BP supported arts and cultural activities since 1990 with more than 2 million in 2015 alone.  BP was also the first major partner to be announced as a supporter of the Hull City of Culture 2017 initiative, a city where BP has had a presence for over 50 years.




Peter Mather, BP Group Regional Vice President, Europe & Head of Country, UK:


“BP is proud to announce the renewal of our partnerships with the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Our industry is going through a period of rebalancing, but our commitment to the UK and to our partners is for the long-term.  Our continued support will enable these institutions to forward plan engaging, educational and powerful exhibitions and performances that will be enjoyed by millions here in the UK and beyond.”


Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum:


“BP has supported the British Museum for the past 20 years which has enabled the Museum to host magnificent exhibitions and events with a great public benefit. From understanding the Emperor Hadrian and the legend of the Vikings, to the significance of Indigenous Australia and the Mexican Day of the Dead, these exhibitions and events have been enjoyed by millions of visitors to the Museum and have deepened understanding of the world’s many cultures and their interconnectedness. The Museum is grateful to BP who have confirmed they will continue to support the British Museum exhibition programme for a further five years”.


Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London:


“The National Portrait Gallery greatly welcomes the announcement of BP’s support for the Portrait Award for the next five years from 2018 onwards. It is wonderful news for all those, whether visitors or artists, who want to admire or create the very best of contemporary portrait painting from around the world and always proves to be an exceedingly popular exhibition in our calendar. This year is the twenty-seventh year the Award has been very generously supported by BP, which allows us to make the exhibition free for our visitors. We are extremely grateful for, and proud of, this ongoing partnership, for such longevity and loyalty is unique in corporate sponsorship. At a time when funding for public institutions is increasingly stretched, the support of the arts that BP provides is vital.”


Alex Beard, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House:


“BP has been and remains at the forefront of corporate investment in arts and culture in the UK and it’s wonderful for the Royal Opera House to have their commitment for a further five years.  One of the benefits of such long-term support is that you can really build and develop a partnership, and to have the BP Big Screen programme consistently providing opportunities for people up and down the country to access world-class ballet and opera for free is fantastic.”


Catherine Mallyon, RSC Executive Director:


“BP’s sponsorship of our £5 ticket scheme for 16-25 year olds gives many young people the chance to see our work.  The scheme is highly valued by our audiences and helps us establish lifetime enthusiasts for Shakespeare and live theatre.  Since 2013, we have sold over 62,000 tickets thanks to BP’s support.  Corporate sponsorship is an important part of our diverse funding mix, alongside ticket sales, public investment, private philanthropy and commercial activity. Together they allow us to deliver our artistic programme and reach the widest possible audience.”


Further information:



Details of the partnerships:


British Museum

BP is one of the British Museum's longest standing corporate partners, generously supporting the British Museum's public programme on an annual basis since 1996.  2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the partnership which has allowed in excess of 3.8 million visitors to view BP supported British Museum exhibitions, displays and activities in Bloomsbury and further afield. 


Over the course of 20 years BP has supported numerous special exhibitions as title sponsor, most recently the hugely successful Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisationMing: 50 Years that changed China and Vikings: life and legend. BP is the title sponsor of the Museum’s current exhibition Sunken cities:  Egypt’s lost worlds, running from 19 May to 27 November 2016.  


In addition, BP has supported special public events at the British Museum such as Chinese New Year (2008) and the Mexican Day of the Dead (2009). The most recent in this series was the Days of the Dead Festival 2015, supported by BP and in association with the Government of Mexico as part of the 2015: Year of Mexico in the UK. This four- day event attracted 80,000 visitors between 30 October and 2 November.


In 2000 BP funded the BP Lecture Theatre as part of the Great Court development at the British Museum. This is an invaluable resource for the Museum's education and public programme as well as generating additional revenue through conference hire. In 2015 over 84,000 members of the public were able to attend Museum-run events and activities in the BP Lecture Theatre allowing school groups, local communities, national and international visitors to engage more deeply with the Museum’s programme and collection.


BP also supports the Museum in its national and international work. China: Journey to the East, supported by BP, was the largest exhibition of ancient Chinese material to be seen outside London. Shown at seven partner museums and galleries between 2009 and 2012, it has been the most popular British Museum UK touring exhibition to date with over 450,000 visitors. 


Made in China: An Imperial Ming Vase, the most recent BP-supported UK touring exhibition, went to Glasgow, Sheffield, Bristol and Basingstoke in 2014-15 and gave over 121,000 people the opportunity to see this priceless piece in displays across the UK. With its support in 2012 for Mummy: The Inside Story in Mumbai, BP also enabled the British Museum to tour an exhibition to India for the first time. Such activities feed into the Museum’s organisational commitment to share its collection of over 8 million objects with a worldwide audience.  


National Portrait Gallery

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

The Portrait Award, now in its thirty-seventh year at the National Portrait Gallery and twenty-seventh 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 2015 the exhibition received 329,556 visitors, the highest ever for an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. In 2015 it received a record number of entries; 2,748 portraits by artists from 92 countries across the world. The exhibition tours each year and BP Portrait Award 2016 is being shown in Lincoln and Edinburgh 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 is now a vital part of the programme and provides 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 and 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 16 years, BP has supported the free Big Screen live relays of opera and ballet direct from Covent Garden to 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.


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 over their Instagram and Twitter feeds, and even join a nationwide sing-a-long. BP’s partnership also provides additional support to the Royal Opera House’s learning and participation work with communities across the UK.


In 2012, BP also supported 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 was 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. This achieved more than 45,000 visitors during the two week exhibition.


Royal Shakespeare Company

BP first supported the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011-2012 as the Company’s Founding Presenting Partner of the World Shakespeare Festival. The Festival was a celebration of Shakespeare as the world’s playwright produced as part of the Cultural Olympiad which accompanied the 2012 London Olympics. This unprecedented collaboration included leading UK and international arts organisations coming together to celebrate Shakespeare’s work across the world.


In February 2013, BP began supporting the RSC’s £5 ticket scheme. Since then, over 62,000 tickets have been sold to young people aged 16 to 25 for the RSC’s work in Stratford-upon-Avon, London and on tour. In 2015, the BP 16-25 Shakespeare Pass was introduced which enables 16-25 year olds to see five RSC productions in the Company’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon for just £20.


Both schemes give many young people the chance to see the RSC’s work and are highly valued by audiences as they help to establish lifetime enthusiasts for Shakespeare and live theatre.