National Portrait Gallery (CC BY-SA 3.0 Ham)

National Portrait Gallery and BP jointly end awards partnership

Image: National Portrait Gallery (CC BY-SA 3.0 Ham)

The NPG’s Portrait Award will continue in 2023 without sponsorship from the energy giant, which said it is looking at new ways to use its resources.

BP and the National Portrait Gallery have together confirmed that their partnership will not extend beyond 2022, when their current contract comes to an end.

The partnership, which has seen BP support the Gallery’s Portrait Award for more than 30 years, will cease in December.

The BP Portrait Award is not to be staged in 2021 and 2022 while the Gallery’s building in St Martin’s Place is closed for redevelopment. BP said it will honour the sponsorship contract, and the remaining funds will support the Gallery’s work.

BP said the move comes as the company reviews its partnerships and initiatives “to ensure activity is aligned to its new strategy.”

Louise Kingham CBE, Senior Vice President, Europe & Head of Country, UK at BP, said the company “must look at new ways to best use our talent, experience, and resources.”

Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, said the Gallery is “hugely grateful to BP for its long-term support of the BP Portrait Award.

“The Gallery is committed to working with artists and continuing to promote portraiture and we look forward to developing the future Portrait Award as we plan for our reopening in 2023.”

In 2020, following protests about the company’s sponsorship of the arts, over 70 artists signed a public letter urging the Gallery to remove the BP representative spot from the judging panel of the BP Portrait Award.

A joint decision between BP and NPG later saw the judging position removed, but a spokesperson for NPG at the time told The Guardian the decision was not influenced by the “high-profile campaign work”.

In recent years climate campaigning work has followed a fall in BP’s sponsorship of many high-profile cultural organisations.

BP ended its 26-year sponsorship of the Tate in 2016 citing business challenges, while campaign group Liberate Tate occupied and protested at the museum over the partnership.

In 2019 the Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland announced that it would be the last time that the galleries would host the exhibition “in its present form”.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) ended its sponsorship deal with BP in 2019 citing feedback from young people that the sponsorship had created a “barrier between them and their wish to engage with the RSC”.

Continuing their partnership with BP are The British Museum and Royal Opera House.


According to documents acquired and made public by campaigning organisation Culture Unstained, the museum’s leaders have an ‘informal’ meeting group of which BP is a part.