How will Tate react to losing BP?
Ouch! That's my reading of how Tate will have reacted to BP's decision to cease its long-standing corporate support of the gallery.
Tate has never said how much money is involved, but I'd hazard a guess that we're talking about something in the region of £500,000 a year. Which, for an organisation turning over around £62m a-year, might not seem especially significant, but it is. It will most certainly hurt. Now, maybe, more than ever.
The gallery isn't particularly flush at the moment. It has four large galleries dotted around the country, a warehouse, and numerous other large overheads and commitments with which to contend. It necessarily spends heavily on delivering its mission to increase the public's knowledge and appreciation of art, and invests ambitiously in making its collection available to partners around the country.
Added to which, it has only just finished an expensive refurbishment of Tate Britain, and still needs to raise a very large sum of money to pay for its shiny new Herzog & De Meuron-designed Tate Modern extension (opening in June this year).
The anti-BP lobby are delighted to see the back of the oil giant, but I doubt the Tate will be celebrating. I think it will find replacing the money very difficult. After all, it wasn't a high-profile exhibition programme BP was sponsoring (as it does at the British Museum), or an award (as it does at the National Portrait Gallery) or an event (such as the Royal Opera House's BP Big Screens), all of which garner plenty of publicity and profile for a sponsor.
BP were principally sponsoring Tate Britain's collection displays, which are fine, but not generally newsworthy enough to provide the splashy media moments on which to hang a corporate hat. Collection displays aren't sexy, blockbuster shows are.
They don't, for example, consistently deliver the requisite PR bang for the corporate's buck. Nor - and perhaps more importantly in BP's case - are they always going to provide enough of a carrot to tempt those a sponsor wants to smooze down to Pimlico on a chilly winter's evening. Anybody can see the Tate Britain permanent collection for free, seven days a week, and to be absolutely frank, in conditions akin to a private view (when I pop in I often find myself in the gallery on my own, or with only one or two other people browsing the walls).
And even if the collection did once have the desired allure, perhaps after 27-years, the invitation has lost some of its lustre.