BP's woes increased this week as its long-term sponsorship of The Arts came under attack. The press opening of the BP Portrait Awards was gatecrashed by the Don't Panic collective who offered guests wine glasses filled with thick black liquid.
"It's actually artistically tactless," said A Herbert, an electronic artist. "All visitors should make a point of boycotting any portrait painted in oils. Stick to watercolour, collage and gouache. It's the only language BP understands," he added.
Other major galleries and museums are also feeling the pressure of being linked to BP. Last month a group called Liberate Tate entered the gallery's main turbine hall and released dozens of black balloons attached to dead fish in protest against the Gulf oil spill. Gallery staff had to shoot the balloons down with air rifles, but not before hundreds of tourists had applauded what was assumed to be a new work by Damien Hirst. It was later confirmed that Charles Saatchi had offered to buy both the balloons and fish in a private sale.
A spokesman from The Museum Association said, "It's not the protests we object to per se, but the low artistic standards of the demonstrators. There's been no nudity, no setting fire to a million quid in a briefcase, and no-one's pulled a dead dolphin out of their foo. It's very disappointing."
Tracie Eminem, for the Arts Council, pointed out. "We give grants for this sort of thing. There really is no excuse for just sloshing a bit of black stuff about and calling it a protest. Gilbert and George would be turning in their graves."