Winner of BP art award donates share of prize money to anti-BP protests

Greenpeace boat
The artist hoped the action will help keep BP's role in climate change from being overshadowed by their contribution to the arts. Photo credit: Reuters

A young New Zealand artist who won an art award sponsored by BP has donated some of his winnings to Greenpeace.

Henry Christian-Slane, 26, says it's in protest of the global oil giant using his art to promote its brand.

Christian-Slane, studied visual art at Auckland University of Technology, and currently lives in London. The award-winning painting was of his partner.

Selected out of 2,580 entries, he won £7000 (NZ$12,717) in prize money for the award, which was presented to him by BP's chief executive Bob Dudley.

In a guest post on Greenpeace UK's website, the 26-year-old said it was a prestigious award, "and I was happy to receive it, but I'm not happy about being part of BP's PR strategy."

In a "symbolic act" of defiance, he has donated £1000 (NZ$1,816) of his prize to Greenpeace projects that directly protest against BP's mining of fossil fuels.

"I hope this action will help keep the issue of BP's role in climate change from being overshadowed by their contribution to the arts," he wrote.

"Big oil companies like BP have the power to prevent fossil fuels in the ground from entering the air as greenhouse gases and we need to keep pressure on them to accept this responsibility".

Sara Ayech of Greenpeace UK told the Guardian she thanked Christian-Slane for his stand against "art's co-option by the oil industry".

She said that purchasing a dominant position in London's cultural scene had become a double-edged sword for BP.

"As Henry has demonstrated, not everyone can be bought.

"While BP are maintaining their brand's relationship with the city's elites they are also providing a platform for the environmental damage they do around the world to be exposed."

Greenpeace and other campaign groups have long protested against arts institutions receiving sponsorship from the oil giant. Last year the company announced it would invest millions in major cultural institutions including the British Museum, Royal Opera Hoise and Royal Shakespeare Company.