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Artist Donates BP Prize Money to Greenpeace

A growing number of artists and concerned citizens are speaking out against the oil industry's sponsorship of the arts.

The Guardian reported this week that Henry Christian-Slane, the winner of BP's annual Young Artist Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London, donated a portion of his £7,000 prize money to Greenpeace in protest of the multinational oil and gas giant.


The 26-year-old artist and illustrator from New Zealand received the prestigious award for his portrait of his partner, Gabi Lardies.

Christian-Slane told the Guardian that his £1,000 donation to the prominent environmental organization was a "symbolic act" of defiance against BP's extraction of fossil fuels.

"I hope this action will help keep the issue of BP's role in climate change from being overshadowed by their contribution to the arts," he said.

The painter noted he was also "very uncomfortable with the idea that the portrait award was being used to improve BPs image."

"Big oil companies like BP have the power to prevent the fossil fuels in the ground from entering the atmosphere as greenhouse gases, and we need to keep pressure on them to accept this responsibility. The individual has a role to play in this," Christian-Slane said.

Last year, more than 200 artists, scientists and campaigners submitted a letter to the Times claiming that BP uses arts sponsorships to help develop its interests in oil extraction, which they said must be reduced to tackle climate change.

The letter was in reaction to BP's £7.5 million investment over five years to the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company.

"We cannot afford another five years of BP-branded culture. We believe museums, theatres and galleries are public institutions that must play a positive role in taking urgent climate action and defending human rights," the letter, organized by the Art Not Oil Coalition, states.

Prominent signatories included actors Mark Rylance and Ezra Miller, writer and activist Naomi Klein, Nigerian poet Nnimmo Bassey and environmentalists Jonathon Porritt and Bill McKibben.

Sara Ayech, oil campaigner for Greenpeace UK, thanked Christian-Slane for his stand against "art's co-option by the oil industry."

"Purchasing a dominant position in London's cultural scene is starting to become a bit of a double-edged sword for BP," Ayech explained to the Guardian. "As Henry has demonstrated, not everyone can be bought, and while BP are maintaining their brand's relationship with the city's elites, they are also providing a platform for the environmental damage they do around the world to be exposed in front of their home audience."

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