Elegantly attired staff adorned with BP logos greeted journalists at the entrance to the British Museum’s big winter show, I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria.
We’re so used to corporate sponsors having pride of place at cultural venues that this aroused no surprise. But it was a spoof mounted by the BP or not BP? theatrical action group.
They tweaked the company’s logo with dripping oil to highlight the destructive effect of fossil fuels. Slogans included “Sponsoring the past, destroying the future” and “BP: Making You History”.
Kneeling protesters held signs pointing to the huge wealth derived from oilfields while the local population suffers from unemployment, poverty, broken down services and corruption.
The art-protest group accused the museum of facilitating the whitewashing of BP’s actions in Iraq by “allowing its sponsorship of an exhibition that allows the company to be seen as benevolent guardians and gatekeepers of Iraqi heritage”.
Only a few days ago, a 3,000-year-old seven foot tall Assyrian wall frieze was sold for $31 million at Christie’s New York auction house, despite protests from the Iraqi government and by groups including the Iraqi Transnational Collective.
I am Ashurbanipal: king of the world, king of Assyria opens at the British Museum 8 November and runs until 24 February 2019.