Tate is to appear before the Information Tribunal next Thursday 18 September. It is the latest twist in a story that stems from a Freedom of Information request originally made in December 2011, regarding BP’s longstanding sponsorship of the organisation.
In its response to the request made by Request Initiative, working with the art-activist campaign group Platform, Tate redacted some information, including that which it considered to be commercially sensitive, citing various clauses of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).
Following a complaint about Tate’s handling of the information request, on 4 March 2014 the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ruled that Tate was in fact legally obliged to reveal much – but not all – of the redacted information. Tate appealed against the ruling.
The legal dispute centres on whether Tate should be required to disclose the amount of money it has been receiving from BP. The ICO’s ruling upheld Tate’s view that this is commercially sensitive information and therefore protected under the FOIA.
Next week’s Information Tribunal oral hearing will focus on whether there is a greater public interest case for Tate to release unredacted reports and minutes from a number of its internal documents and Ethics Committee minutes.
Protests against oil sponsorship
The debate around oil sponsorship of the arts has been gaining increasing exposure, with a number of protest actions targeted at the National Portrait Gallery, the Southbank Centre and Tate.
On Saturday 6 September, art activist collective Liberate Tate reinterpeted Malevich’s Black Square in a two-hour performance protest in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, in a move that referenced Tate’s own use of black squares to redact information.
“There’s a great deal of public debate surrounding Tate’s longstanding relationship with BP, a company associated with a long list of environmental, human rights and climate controversies,” said Kevin Smith, an oil sponsorship campaigner from Platform.
“The debate about BP sponsorship often boils down to the question of whether or not Tate could realistically replace BP’s sponsorship money through alternate sponsors or other revenue streams. By refusing to disclose how much money it is getting from BP, Tate is effectively shutting down this important public discussion.”
A statement issued by Tate said: “The ICO upheld Tate’s decision not to release the sponsorship amounts provided by BP to Tate and has not instructed us to release this information. As these proceedings are ongoing, we cannot comment further.”
The Information Tribunal Hearing over Tate and BP sponsorship is open to the public and will take place on 18 September, 10am at Court 7, Field House, 15 Bream’s Buildings, London, EC4A 1DZ.
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