Who Are We?
We are a collective of artists, activists, researchers and critics working at the intersection of art and climate activism. Our goal is to confront oil and gas sponsorship of public cultural institutions in the Netherlands. We are committed to eroding the fossil fuel industry’s public image and their social license to operate.
Through unsolicited art performances in institutions that accept such sponsorship, we expose the ecological and social devastation that the fossil fuel industry inflicts on the planet, and lay bare the way these cultural institutions actively sanitise the reputation of companies like Royal Dutch Shell.
What’s the problem?
The fossil fuel industry has knowingly and wilfully perpetuated the climate crisis. Exxon knew that its business was causing climate change almost 40 years ago, and Shell knew too. According to a study published in the journal Climatic Change in 2013, 83 fossil fuel companies are responsible for almost two-thirds of global warming emissions. The top companies on the list have lavishly funded climate denial campaigns, and are actively obstructing efforts to address the crisis. These profoundly immoral behaviours, coupled with disastrous track records in environmental degradation and human rights violations, demonstrate beyond doubt the fossil fuel industry’s commitment to pursuing profit at any cost.
Fossil fuel companies fund cultural institutions to clean up their public image. This recognised marketing strategy is known as artwashing. For a tiny slice of their enormous PR budgets, oil and gas companies are able to buy a false image of cultural and societal generosity. Their motivation has nothing to do with cultural benevolence; it is a strategy to secure the social respectability they desperately need to continue their destructive business as usual.
The Netherlands is one of the most polluting countries in Europe, and it is lagging behind when it comes to political climate action. One of the reasons slowing the transition is that Netherlands’ economy is entwined with the fossil fuel industry, notably with Royal Dutch Shell, a company that exercises substantial lobbying power in many parts of the government and society at large.
In the cultural sector, Shell is associated with these cultural institutions through sponsorship deals:
The Van Gogh Museum Mauritshuis
- NEMO Science Museum
- Rijksmuseum Boerhaave
- The Concertgebouw
- Drents Museum (via NAM – Shell and ExxonMobil)
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
- Groninger Museum (via GasTerra – Shell and ExxonMobil)
Fossil fuel companies associate themselves with art to shore up their public image; we use art to erode it.
We merge aesthetics and poetry with the audacity and commitment of activism to create boundary-pushing interventions inside the museums that accept fossil fuel sponsorship.
We are part of an international movement that works to liberate cultural institutions from fossil fuels. We collaborate with groups in the UK, like BP or not BP? and Culture Unstained; France, Libérons le Louvre; Norway, Stopp oljesponsing av Norsk Kulturliv; USA, Occupy Museums and The Natural History Museum, among others.
The Fossil Free Culture NL Foundation was established on 22 December 2017. More information can be found here.