I Am British Petroleum: King of Exploitation, King of Injustice


Exhibition Dates: 15th February - 2nd March 2019


Exhibition Launch: Thursday, 14th February 2018, 18:00 - 20:00


Curated by: BP or not BP 


I AM BRITISH PETROLEUM: KING OF EXPLOITATION, KING OF INJUSTICE is an interdisciplinary exhibition of work by artists both in Iraq and in the diaspora, inclusive of all ethnicities found within Iraq. The exhibition will focus on uncovering the realities and consequences of BP’s intervention in Iraq. Alongside the exhibited pieces, workshops, panel events and interviews will be taking place across the two weeks.

This exhibition will coincide with the anniversary of the large scale and transnational 2003 Iraq War protests, as well as the mass action taking place by a coalition of climate justice and decolonial arts and culture activists at the close of the I am Ashurbanipal, King of the World, King of Assyria exhibition currently running at the British Museum.

The British Museum exhibition of Assyrian artefacts is sponsored by BP, a company guilty of environmental injustice and complicit in the exacerbation of the socio-economic conditions in Iraq that saw widespread protests across the country in 2018. While oil companies like BP profit massively from Iraq’s natural resources, Iraqis suffer from powercuts, unclean and inconsistent inadequate water supply, rampant state corruption and mass youth unemployment. UK government documents from 2002 cite BP as being “desperate” to get into Iraq, viewing it as “the big oil prospect”. The centring of BP’s own interests renders it complicit in a war that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and the displacement of millions. The British Museum facilitates the whitewashing of BP’s actions in Iraq by allowing its sponsorship of an exhibition that allows BP to be seen as benevolent guardians and gatekeepers of Iraqi heritage. 

The exhibition hopes to call into question the role that arts and culture institutions like the British Museum play in the rebranding of corporate image of destructive companies. It will be instilled with a necessary urgency, creating a crucial, creative and critical space in which solutions to unethical oil sponsorship and the gatekeeping of heritage by Western institutions are realised. The objects displayed in museums are not obsolete relics; they are symbols of an ever-evolving history, one through which people can trace their modern-day identities and experiences. As such, we hope to create an alternative exhibition space that centres contemporary Iraqi artistry and voice.

The exhibition will run with the assistance of BP or Not BP, a member of the Art Not Oil coalition, and forms part of a growing, transnational wave of criticism of oil sponsorship of the arts. In 2018, it was revealed that Shell’s sponsorship deals with both the National Gallery in London and Amsterdam’s van Gogh Museum had not been renewed, while the Tate ended its relationship with BP in 2016.






For further exhibition information, press images and interview opportunities, please contact the gallery: info@p21.org.uk, or the guest curators: info@bp-or-not-bp.org



Supported by: BP or not BP? & Dar Al-Salam Association