On 10 September, the artist collective Fossil Free Culture NL (FFC-NL) presented an unsolicited performance in entrance hall of the Van Gogh Museum to confront the museum over its unethical sponsorship by the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.
The Van Gogh Museum celebrates the beauty of ‘unspoiled landscapes’ painted by Van Gogh, Rousseau and Corot in its current exhibition In The Forest, emphasising the importance of nature for these artists, while it accepts sponsorship from a company that pollutes and destroys ecosystems around the world.
To highlight this hypocrisy, more than 20 people performed an abstract representation of a dying forest devastated by oil spills and extreme weather events. The performance calls attention to the cognitive dissonance between the Museum’s supposed interest in the environment and the actual catastrophic impact caused by Shell’s continued extraction of fossil fuels.
Shell has caused thousands of oil spills in precious natural landscapes in Niger Delta, The Arctic, Gulf of Mexico, California, Malaysia, among many other locations, destroying the very landscapes and cultural heritage that the Van Gogh Museum claims to value.
Frida, one of the FFC-NL organisers, says:
“Shell derives an unjust boost to their public image from their partnership with the Van Gogh Museum. Sponsoring prestigious cultural institutions is a popular strategy among fossil fuel multinationals desperate to clean up their public image. Tobacco and arms companies once used the same strategy until they became socially unacceptable. It is time for the same to happen to fossil fuel companies. Such sponsorships create the illusion that fossil fuel companies make a positive contribution to society, when in fact they are knowingly driving the climate crisis.”
Fossil Free Culture NL is a collective of artists, activists, and cultural practitioners that conducts artistic interventions inside cultural institutions to challenge their acceptance of sponsorship money from the fossil fuel industry. They believe that ending sponsorship deals is a crucial step towards eroding public trust in fossil fuel companies and forcing them to change their harmful business practices. Their previous #DropTheShell performance at Van Gogh Museum in May provoked a disproportionately harsh reaction, with nine people being arrested. The performance attracted support for FFC-NL from the cultural sector and criticism for the Van Gogh Museum’s response.
[Sp]oiled Landscapes is co-financed by the Ministry of Security and Justice. In May 2017, a compensation was granted to Fossil Free Culture for unlawful deprivation of liberty.
Selçuk Balamir (for enquiries in English) +31 (0) 6 31059593
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