Public arts funding is under threat from government cuts. So many arts organisations feel compelled to seek corporate sponsorship. But who we take money from is very important: it acts as an endorsement of our funders. Policies that expand corporate sponsorship go hand in hand with further privatisation. Outsourcing cultural institutions’ workforce loses security of employment for staff and quality for visitors – see the example of the National Gallery in London.
Oil sponsorship provides a miniscule amount that could never replace public funding, and only for institutions of the highest prestige, who are less likely to struggle with public funding cuts. For example, Tate receives less than 0.5% of its budget from BP. In the UK, it is public funding, not corporate sponsorship, that guarantees that the doors of many museums and galleries are open for free.
But in the context of public funding cuts it is especially important for artists and cultural organisations to decide independently and openly: what funding are we prepared to accept? And what should we refuse? What are we happy for our funding to do in the world?