Scottish National Portrait Gallery drops BP Portrait Award show
Geraldine Kendall Adams, 13.11.2019
Exhibition ‘at odds’ with aim to address climate emergency, says NGS
The BP Portrait Award exhibition will no longer tour to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery after this year’s show, the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) announced this week.
The exhibition, which is produced by London’s National Portrait Gallery, has toured to the Edinburgh institution for the past decade. NGS said the upcoming BP Portrait Award exhibition – due to open on 7 December – would be the last time the show comes to the gallery “in its present form”.
In a statement, NGS said: “We recognise that we have a responsibility to do all we can to address the climate emergency. For many people, the association of this competition with BP is seen as being at odds with that aim.
“Therefore, after due consideration, the trustees of the NGS have decided that this will be the last time that the galleries will host this exhibition in its present form.”
The decision comes after growing pressure from artists and activists calling for the prestigious award to drop its association with BP. Earlier this year, the BP Portrait Awards ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery in London was delayed by anti-oil protestors obstructing the entrance, while 78 artists – including former winners of the award – wrote to the institution urging it to cut ties with the oil giant.
A spokeswoman from the National Portrait Gallery said: “We respect the NGS’s decision and we are grateful for all the support they have given to the award over the years. We also very much look forward to continuing to partner with them in the future, and especially over the next three years as we share our collection widely around the UK during the building works, for inspiring people in a nationwide series of innovative collaborations.
“We are currently considering options for our annual competitions when the building in London temporarily closes from 29 June 2020 to spring 2023.”
National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI) is also reviewing whether it should continue to host the exhibition in future, according to the BBC.
In a statement, NMNI said that while the show would tour to Ulster Museum in April next year as planned, the museum plans to use it “as an opportunity to engage with our visitors about their views on ethical sponsorship within the museum sector”.
It continued: "Like all museums, we take ethical considerations very seriously. Following the exhibition, we will be taking the opportunity to critically review whether to host the Portrait Award exhibition again in the future."