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Rakewell

A Waste of Energy? Tate Modern’s Solar Panels and the BP Protesters

14 September 2015

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Last week, London’s Tate Modern announced that solar panels were to be installed on its roof, courtesy of renewable energy specialist Solarcentury. Judith Nesbitt, the museum’s Director of National and International Programmes, certainly seemed excited about it; it was, according to Nesbitt, ‘a small but important step in making the gallery as sustainable and efficient as possible’ – an interesting way of looking at it, perhaps, given the Tate’s longstanding affiliation with oil giant BP.

If the museum’s notables were expecting a round of applause from environmentalist groups, Rakewell suspects that their Monday morning meeting was less than jolly. On Saturday night, protesters from an activist group calling itself ‘Liberate Tate’ staged an all-night ‘performance’ in the museum’s Turbine Hall, and refused to leave when confronted by officials.

Still, Tate Modern wasn’t the only London museum hoisted by its own petard this weekend. The British Museum has made a great song and dance out of its biodiversity and sustainability project, and last summer set up an apiary on the ‘green roof’ of its World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre (WCEC) to highlight the environmental plight of the humble bee. Alas, the buzzy gesture couldn’t save the venerable institution from a similar fate to the Tate. On Saturday, a flash mob’s worth of activists stormed the museum in protest at the reported £500,000 it receives in sponsorship from BP per annum. I wonder whether they offered access to the WCEC’s rainwater-flushing toilets.

Back at Bankside, the protestors spent 25 hours scrawling warnings about climate change onto the floor of the space in charcoal, leaving only at 1pm on Sunday. The Turbine Hall remained closed to the public for the rest of the day, and whatever self-congratulatory warmth the gallery was drawing in from its new solar kit was surely washed out by all those extra cleaning bills.

Got a story for Rakewell? Email tips to rakewell@apollomag.com

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