The National Gallery and the arms trade
Finmeccanica, a global weapons manufacturer, is one of the National Gallery's 'corporate benefactors.' Its relationship with the Gallery began in June 2006. The current agreement ends in October 2013.
What it buys
Finmeccanica currently pays the Gallery £30,000 a year, buying it the right to hold two dinners or evening receptions at the Gallery each year, alongside other benefits. Additional evening events can be arranged.
As a result of this arrangement the Gallery has hosted a reception on the Tuesday evening of every Farnborough Airshow since 2006.
A shrewd investment
Finmeccanica is buying the privilege of using the Gallery's rooms as a backdrop for 'corporate entertaining.' This is not a benevolent gesture. It is a shrewd business investment which helps the company impress its clients and woo decision makers.
As one law-firm said of arts sponsorship:
Finmeccanica lists its sponsorship of the National Gallery in the 'partnerships' area of its website (rather than in the Corporate Social Responsibility section, which details charitable giving and community work). Its partnerships primarily consist of industry interest group and are about the company's influence and image: "Finmeccanica in the UK continually promotes collaborative relationships with the armed forces, Government, industry, academia and commercial customers, in order to improve capability delivery, foster innovation and establish Finmeccanica in the UK as a partner of choice."
The Gallery does have an 'ethical fundraising policy' – but this says nothing at all about what might be considered ethical or unethical. However it does say that "As an institution that exists for the public and receives public funding the Gallery has ... a desire to show that it is sensitive to the general concerns of the public regarding ethical issues of fundraising and the investment of funds."
In addition, it says that sponsorship should not be accepted if it would harm the gallery and that harm was "disproportionate to the benefit derived" from the sponsorship.
Harm includes the Gallery incurring "a level of criticism from the press, public or any other relevant community of professionals disproportionate to the benefit derived" and serious damage to the Gallery's reputation.
Arms company sponsorship of the arts has long been considered a no-go area. Only last year the BBC's arts editor wrote that "Connections with arms manufacturing, cigarettes or companies which attract widescale protests are generally avoided."
We need to show such an association is still unacceptable. Email the Gallery.
- Finmeccanica's sponsorship is worth just £30,000 a year.
- This accounts for approximately 1.6% of the Gallery's annual total sponsorships and donations income, and 0.08% of its generated funds.
- Government money for the Gallery (the grant in aid budget) is being cut by 15% in real terms by 2014-15 taking it to approximately £26m in 2013/14.
- Meanwhile the UK government continues to subsidise arms exports to the tune of £700 million per annum.
- In November 2010 the UK government spent £55,000 on a 3-day arms sales trip to Libya – just three months before the start of its uprising.