The Tate takeover

Deadline's unauthorised public arts programme on fossil fuels and colonialism

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

Home » The Tate takeover

Published: 7 December 2015

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod


The first ever unauthorised public festival in a national gallery took over Tate Modern as climate negotiators met in Paris over the weekend.

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Cover for BP

Deadline festival took over the Turbine Hall and other Tate Modern spaces for three days (04-06 December), challenging the BP-Tate sponsorship deal that’s due to expire in a year’s time.

‘Tate is soaking up BP’s oil, and giving BP cover to keep drilling.’

Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader

The programme

The public programme included:

  • Sunflower Liberation Front and Tate visitors seedbombing Abraham Cruzvillegas’s Empty Lot installation with sunflower seeds. The official interpretation panel reads: ‘Flowers may or may not grow depending on… what people drop in.’
  • A display of Gideon Mendel’s Drowning World photography series, depicting people flooded in their homes as a result of climate change.
  • Panel discussions with MEPs and film-makers, award-winning theatre-makers, Azeri dissidents and Nigerian artists.
  • A five-metre tall hourglass and the words ‘drop BP’ inscribed on the floor of Tate’s Turbine Hall with tape and sunflower seeds.

‘Austerity is threatening our cultural institutions. But the solution is not to take money from companies like BP.’

Julie Ward, Labour Party MEP and European spokesperson on Culture

Getting past security

Art organisation Platform curated of Deadline festival without asking Tate for permission. Tate security managers attempted to move the events and installations to less accessible parts of the gallery, without success.

Over 4,000 Tate visitors engaged with the unauthorised festival, with over 1,000 actively participating in Deadline events.

‘We took over Tate Modern for three days with our public but unauthorised arts programme on fossil fuels and colonialism. Where else do you see women and people of colour-led discussion in mainstream art spaces? Or an honest debate over BP’s stifling presence? Tate – we’ll be back. It’s time to #dropBP.’

Mika Minio-Paluello, Deadline festival curator

Reconsidering sponsorship

Following a three-year Freedom of Information court battle, Tate revealed that BP’s sponsorship fees have historically amounted to £150,000-£330,000 a year – under 0.5% of Tate’s annual budget.

Tate director Nicholas Serota has confirmed that Tate Trustees will be reconsidering BP sponsorship during 2016.

Gideon Mendel's Drowning World
Tate security put barrier tape around the Deadline festival installation of Gideon Mendel’s ‘Drowning World’ photographs
Time is running out
‘Time is running out’ – performative installation in Tate’s Turbine Hall. Composed of Sunflower seeds, masking tape and Deadline festival programmes
Sunflower Liberation Front
Sunflower Liberation Front. Participants dropped sunflower seeds into the Turbine Hall installation, as a symbol of reclaiming the sunflower from its use in the BP logo

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