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Big Oil and the Arts

by Mel Evans

A hard-hitting exposé into Big Oil sponsorship of the arts.

*Shortlisted for the Bread and Roses Prize, 2016*

*Shortlisted for the Green Carnation Prize, 2015*

* Shortlisted for the Academy of British Cover Design Awards, 2015*

Artwash is an intervention into the unsavoury role of the Big Oil company's sponsorship of the arts in Britain. Based on the high profile campaign 'Liberate Tate', Mel Evans targets Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell's collaboration with institutions such as the Tate in an attempt to end the poisonous relationship forever.

Based on years of undercover research, grassroots investigation and activism as well as performance and cultural interventions, Mel Evans draws together the story of the campaign and its journey which has gone from strength to strength. Artwash shows how corporate sponsorship of the arts erases unsightly environmental destruction and obscures the strategies of oil company PR executives who rely on cultural philanthropy.

The conclusion sounds a note of hope: major institutions (such as the Southbank Centre) have already agreed to cut sponsorship, and tribunals are happening which are taking these relationships to task. Artists and employees are developing new methods of work which publicly confront the oil companies. Like the anti-tobacco campaign before it, this will be an important cultural and political turn for years to come.

Mel Evans is an artist and activist associated with artists collective Liberate Tate and arts and campaigning organisation Platform, who challenge the global impacts of the oil industry. She is the author of Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts (Pluto, 2015).

'This fascinating book delves deeply into the pressing debates about art sponsorship, one of the more insidious tools that the fossil fuel industry deploys to build and maintain its power, undermining the critical role of art in our democracies in the process'

- Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything and The Shock Doctrine

'Charts campaigners' journey, drills down into why BP and Shell have snuggled up to our major cultural institutions, and details the impact of BP's Tate sponsorship on the gallery's reputation, staff, and artists, questioning who benefits from the 25-year relationship'


'Places the end of oil sponsorship within a much longer history of standing up to corporations and winning'

- New Statesman

'Provide[s] a a vigorous overview from an artist's perspective of a serious issue facing our major cultural institutions in these uncertain times'

- Times Literary Supplement

'Sharp, pointed and persuasive'

- ArtReview

'Critically discusses the impact of corporate sponsorship on the arts and exposes the motives of donors to shocking effect'

- Big Issue in the North

'[Evans'] infectious optimism is the most striking feature of this persuasively argued and unashamedly idealistic book'

- New Internationalist

'A rapidly paced immensely readable breakdown of the oil business and the laundering of its image through patronage of the arts'

- Conrad Atkinson, Emeritus Professor, University of California

'Perfect for those interested in how oil companies fund the arts to improve their public image … not just happy with explaining the crude links, Evans also explains how we can fight back'

- Bright Green

List of Illustrations and Tables
List of Acronyms
List of Characters
1. Introduction
2. Big Oil’s Artwash Epidemic
3. Capital and Culture
4. Discrete Logos, Big Spills
5. The Impact of BP on Tate: An Unhappy Context for Art
6. Opposition to Oil Sponsorship and Interventions in Gallery Spaces
7. Conclusion

Published by Pluto Press in Apr 2015
Paperback ISBN: 9780745335889
eBook ISBN: 9781783713332

135mm x 215mm

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