Category: BP Grand Entrance

LACMA Halloween Nightmare

Alternative BP logo - Anonymous. Submission from the BP "Logo Makeover" contest sponsored by Greenpeace UK in May of 2010. © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Alternative BP logo - Anonymous. Submission from the BP "Logo Makeover" contest sponsored by Greenpeace UK in May of 2010. © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Hallowe’en… what fearfu’ pranks ensue! This October 26, 2013, the trendy vampires and way-out ogres of Los Angeles will shamble and hobble their way to the 10th-annual “Muse Costume Ball” thrown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

By a route obscure and lonely, haunted by ill angels only, the museum promotes their monstrous masquerade ball as “haunted by the ghosts of old Hollywood,” and entreats those who are fearless enough to attend, to “make your red-carpet debut and toast the town, but don’t be surprised if you feel some darkness lurking behind the red carpet.”

Oh yes dear baddies and cackling cacodemons, there are evildoing specters oozing, percolating, leaking, and bleeding all over the LACMA campus, and the foul spirits reek of viscous crude oil!

Ghoulies and harpies attending the Muse Costume Ball will be bedeviled, and distressed by various exhibits and art happenings in and around the unholy grounds of LACMA.

Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes will regale rapscallions and banshees alike with their clichéd sultriness, Theophilus London will get dem dry bones clattering with the type of rap so fresh that it makes a George Romero reanimated corpse look like a newborn, and Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group will do their very best to scare the bejesus out of bored, jaded, trend mongering, L.A. bon vivants. For youse jack-o-lantern headed, worm-eaten postmodern art loving goons, you can feast yer vacant eyes on Richard Serra’s Whatchamacallit, Bruce Nauman’s Gang Signs For Beginners, or Chris Burden’s super expensive Tonka Toy set, Metropolis I love you. Wow, all those performers and artists… really scary stuff.

Alternative BP logo - Based on Edvard Munch's artwork, "The Scream" © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Alternative BP logo - Based on Edvard Munch's artwork, "The Scream" © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

A horrid night will be had by undead art superstars, devilish art critics, and other ne’er-do-wells, but perhaps the most disagreeable and ghastly evening will be had by none other than Michael Govan, the Director, CEO, and numero uno mischievous sprite of LACMA.

It is rumored that Govan will make an important announcement at LACMA’s Muse Costume Ball, the acquisition of a most important “land art” masterpiece from New York based conceptual artist, Bob Dudley.

Titled Massive Tar Mat, Dudley’s earth art magnum opus makes use of natural materials from the Gulf of Mexico; sand, shells, water, and a few lifeless sea creatures. The controversial work of genius is said to measure 165 feet long by 65 feet wide, and Govan has secretively kept the piece underwraps, though it is beginning to stink of petroleum and death.

Dudley’s Massive Tar Mat was purchased for an undisclosed price rumored to be as high as $18 billion. Much bigger and far more expensive than Michael Heizer’s $10 million boulder, Levitated Mass, Dudley’s tour de force will no doubt put LACMA on the map for worldwide art tourism. No-goodniks and wraiths at the Muse Costume Ball will breathlessly be anticipating the unveiling of Dudley’s masterwork.

Alternative BP logo  - Anonymous © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Alternative BP logo - Anonymous © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Meanwhile, there are those interfering and annoying do-gooders who just want to spoil a damned good night of mischief-making.

The California Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against BP for violating state law on handling hazardous materials and toxic waste, accusing BP of endangering public health by not properly inspecting and maintaining underground gasoline storage tanks for 750 California gas stations.

Oh come on, why be so upset about a little lethal waste? Besides, BP is a major contributor to LACMA, how can the museum keep telling people of BP’s “commitment to sustainable energy” with the state of California suing the oil giant?

But wait, there is more… paranormal events have been spooking LACMA’s grounds in the days just before the Muse Costume Ball. The disembodied spirits of the 11 workers killed when BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 26, 2010, have been seen on the roof of LACMA’s “BP Grand Entrance.” Atop that wretched entry, the ghostly workers reenact desperate attempts to evacuate the burning oil rig that led to their demise. No doubt the specters will continue to haunt LACMA’s entrance as long as it bears such a hellish name.

Alternative BP logo  - Anonymous © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Alternative BP logo - Anonymous © All rights reserved/Greenpeace UK.

Museum patrons have reported that poltergeists have rebuilt the large reflecting pools of water that once graced LACMA’s grounds. Younger Angelenos will not remember the pools on Wilshire Boulevard that nearly surrounded the entire museum in its early years.

Because oil from the nearby La Brea Tar Pits continually seeped into those lovely pools, they were emptied of water and eventually filled in; a portent of LACMA actually becoming the oil museum. But since poltergeists love to plague and pester, they have created phantom pools containing not water, but tar balls and smelly petroleum.

Those who have seen the mirage-like black pools swear they contain horribly mutated sea creatures from BP’s Gulf disaster; shrimp born without eyes, clawless crabs, fish with oozing sores and other nightmares.

When on October 26, hipster hobgoblins, suburbanite zombies, and edgy demons with androgynous hair cuts try and make their way to LACMA’s Muse Costume Ball, they may well have to circumnavigate Bob Dudley’s malodorous Massive Tar Mat, a phantasm burning oil rig, and some really pissed-off mutant sea creatures in order to do so. Not to mention encountering the scary Attorney General of California gnashing her teeth out in front of the BP Grand Entrance.

Oh, and there is one more nightmarish thing to deal with, ticket prices. LACMA’s monster mash is not for bête noire proletarian miscreants, it is strictly for upper-crust bloodsuckers and villainess socialites. At $100 per general admission ticket, what is a poor working ghoul to do?

Ya know… creeps and bugaboos might be better off staying at home and watching reruns of The Walking Dead.

Celebrate Earth Day with BP!

One of the thousands of seabirds killed by BP's 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. Photograph by Charlie Riedel © for Associated Press.

One of the thousands of seabirds killed by BP's 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. Photograph by Charlie Riedel © for Associated Press.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), sponsored by the multinational oil company BP - responsible for the biggest toxic oil spill in history, had the unmitigated gall to organize “greenwashing” activities on its museum campus for Earth Day.

Posting an announcement on the LACMA website for the April 21, 2013 Earth Day activities, the museum gave its day of programs the ill-chosen title, “Because Earth without Art is Just ‘Eh’”.

While LACMA invites people to walk through its “BP Grand Entrance” to celebrate Earth Day - Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana have filed lawsuits against LACMA’s oily sponsor over the incalculable damages their states suffered because of BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. LACMA’s announcement reads as follows:

Earth Day: Because Earth without Art is Just “Eh”
Sunday, April 21, 2013 | 11 am

Celebrate Earth Day with a day of programs and activities designed for all ages, including artist-led workshops, tours of the collection for families and adults, a nature-inspired poetry workshop for adults, sketching from nature, music jam with instruments made of recycled materials, and a guided walkthrough of the natural art on campus. You and your freinds (sic) can organize your own community bike ride to LACMA! If you plan to travel to LACMA by bike on Earth Day, be sure to check out LADOT’s bike maps for a safe route.

*Does not include admission to Stanley Kubrick.

BP Grand Entrance l View full schedule | General museum admission is required; free museum admission will be granted to those with a bike helmet, or those who have traveled by alternative transportation.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, 5/1/2013, LACMA sent out its May newsletter to the public with a “Corporate Member Update”. In a single perfunctory sentence, the newsletter informed readers that the museum was “pleased to announce” the renewal of corporate sponsorship from BP. No further details were offered. Meanwhile, in the reality based community, people are paying attention to the ongoing “Clean Water Act” trial BP faces in New Orleans, Louisiana. The proceedings will establish whether BP was guilty of “gross negligence” in running its Deepwater Horizon drilling platform. If found guilty, the oil giant could face a $21 billion fine. A ruling is expected sometime in September.

Oil, Museums, & Arts Funding

On June 23, 2010, I wrote a missive regarding the financial ties the Los Angeles County Museum of Art maintains with the U.K. oil company, BP (British Petroleum). My tongue-in-cheek piece sarcastically incriminated Freewaves, the L.A.-based new media arts organization, for displaying videos at LACMA’s so-called “BP Grand Entrance” in an official LACMA program on June 26, 2010. My remarks apparently touched a nerve, and I received an e-mail from the Executive Director of Freewaves, Anne Bray, who claimed Freewaves was “sympathetic” to my position. Intrigued, I offered Ms. Bray the opportunity to submit a written rebuttal to my article, and that I would consider publishing her commentary for the sake of open dialog in the arts community. Ms. Bray indeed sent an editorial piece to me on 6/25/2010 that was co-authored by Freewaves Marketing Intern Saira Fazli. I publish their statement here in full:

Dear Mr. Vallen

We are grateful for your concern regarding our event. We agree with you – BP has done a terrible thing that reflects this society’s harrowing addiction to oil, which is the real issue. The most constructive thing we can do is to decrease our dependence on oil, not just hate BP. BP only exists to supply our thirst. Another constructive thing we can do, which Freewaves does, is to embrace activist art. We screen videos that are deemed too challenging for mainstream media. We are aware of the fact that our medium, video art, is not a green one. But we have been showing eco-friendly and eco-themed works since 1990.

We are anything but an institution or a corporation. We are a community. In fact, we have only two permanent employees. Everyone else who has worked with us has been a friend of Freewaves who decided to work with us because they believe in us. Everything we’ve done in our 20+ year history has been an attempt to subvert the way that corporations have framed mass media. We have consistently worked tirelessly to fairly and justly give underrepresented groups the attention they can’t get anywhere else. We haven’t stopped yet, and we’re not going to stop now.

The $10 per person ticket price is not excess money that we greedily collect because we sadistically celebrate seagull fatalities. LACMA is receiving all of the income from the event. Most Freewaves events are actually free. In fact, unlike other festivals, we choose to use the funding that we have to pay our artists. We care about making sure that artists understand how much we value their creativity.

We sell our books and DVDs at a small portion of production costs. We are, at our core, a small nonprofit arts organization. We are not about, and have  never been about, money.

We don’t need to waste our time giving BP extra publicity. But if you want to be constructive and help us make a dent in the world, then join us. Contribute your ideas and help us make a change. Come to our event and protest BP if you have to. Talk to everyone you meet about how much the situation disgusts you. Mobilize! The most unhelpful thing you can do is stay home by yourself and write blogs about why we suck.

We’re not going to stop fighting. Are you?

Sincerely,

Anne Bray, Executive Director
Saira Fazli, Marketing Intern

I am afraid that Bray and Fazli have missed my point entirely. My objection is not that BP has “done a terrible thing,” but that LACMA’s director Michael Govan has turned the museum into a marketing arm of BP. In 2007 Mr. Govan accepted $25 million from the oil company and in return the museum built the so-called “BP Grand Entrance” on the LACMA campus. Every time an artist or arts group presents works beneath the BP Grand Entrance, it lends authority, respectability, and quiet approval to the machinations of one of the world’s biggest polluters; even if that presentation is of a “challenging” nature – it nonetheless enables BP to present itself as a generous and “socially responsible” supporter of the arts. As one must pass through the BP Grand Entrance in order to enter the LACMA museum complex, BP has succeeded in placing its imprimatur upon every LACMA exhibit, not to mention its entire collection.

In a brief interview that appeared on the Flavorpill website just prior to Freewaves’ presentation at the BP Grand Entrance, Ms. Bray asserted that the videos to be shown would “assess art’s role in challenging racism, sexism and classism.” In the statement Bray and Fazli submitted to me, they insisted that in the 20 plus years of Freewaves’ history, the group has endeavored to “subvert the way that corporations have framed mass media.” I do commend Freewaves for having such an illustrious track record, but one thing puzzles me. How is it that a collection of apolitical mainstream Pop Stars comprised of mega-celebrities like Lady Gaga, the Backstreet Boys, Ryan Seacrest, Justin Bieber, Cameron Diaz and dozens of others, can call for and help organize a boycott in denunciation of BP – but Freewaves, which purports to “embrace activist art,” cannot?

There are many talented artists who have worked with Freewaves, and undoubtedly the group and its associates have contributed much in helping to build and sustain a new contentious art – but at this time there is a pressing need for all artists and arts organizations to think through their positions regarding oil company sponsorship of the arts. In the spirit of the familiar axiom, “think globally – act locally,” this means artists in L.A. should be opposing BP’s funding of LACMA. Around twenty years ago some of the largest corporate sponsors of the arts were tobacco companies, yet who would collaborate with, or take money from, tobacco companies today? If the idea of a “Philip Morris Tobacco Company Grand Entrance” at LACMA sounds like an outrage, then why is the “BP Grand Entrance” acceptable – especially in light of today’s ongoing cataclysm in the Gulf of Mexico?

I have put my name to a petition published in the letters section of Britain’s Guardian on June 28, 2010, an appeal signed by 170 other international arts professionals including Hans Haacke and Lucy R. Lippard. The petition, which demands an end to oil company sponsorship of the arts, was described by Artinfo as an “Army of Art-World Protestors Against BP Funding,” The petition was meant to coincide with the 20th anniversary of BP “support” for Britain’s Tate Modern, National Portrait Gallery, and other major cultural institutions – sponsorship that has been denounced, protested, picketed, and disrupted by a wide alliance of arts professionals, activists, and environmentalists in the U.K. It is time for the arts community in the United States to carry out its own efforts.

LACMA: Video on the Loose

BP’s video entry – live streaming video of ecocide in progress.

BP’s video entry – live streaming video of ecocide in progress.

Video on the Loose: Freewaves and 20 Years of Media Art, is an evening of postmodern video presentations that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will be mounting outdoors at its “BP Grand Entrance” on Sat., June 26, 2010.

The event is being promoted as a  20th anniversary celebration of Freewaves, the L.A.-based new media arts organization. According to a LACMA press release, the videos “will animate the BP Grand Entrance and North Piazza with an international selection of video from the past two decades.”

Over twenty unique videos by some 30 different video artists will be shown, and according to a Freewaves press release, “The videos span perspectives from the identity politics of the 1990s to post-9/11 reality checks, from deep inside the mass media landscape to observations from media makers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.” Reality checks indeed. Freewaves touts that “each of the 20+ videos will be looping continuously on separate monitors,” one presumes in the same way BP spokespersons constantly assure the public of the oil company’s commitment to clean and sustainable energy. The only videos that should be looping continuously at LACMA’s obscene BP Grand Entrance are of those showing the thousands of heavily oiled sea birds dying en masse in the Gulf of Mexico dead zone created by BP.

The evening’s video display at LACMA includes four programs organized under the titles of Squirm, Trouble, Pop Cop, and Dual/Duel. Freewaves purports that their Pop Cop program consists of videos that are “critical responses to television ads, news, and authorities,” but it is a safe bet the video presentation at the BP Grand Entrance will be completely devoid of troublesome images from BP’s ecocide in the Gulf.

On June 23, just three days before LACMA’s video fest, BP was busy preparing its own video extravaganza. The oil company announced it had to remove the so-called “containment cap” it had lowered over the gushing underwater oil well, because one of its robotic submarines had damaged the cap in a collision. Of course that means the massive flow of oil streaming into the ocean has been greatly increased – to an estimated 2.5 million gallons of crude oil a day! It is all being captured live in streaming video from camera’s BP set up at the broken well. BP’s experimentation with new media is certainly captivating, one would think it qualifies as the type of “innovative” and “relevant” video Freewaves claims to champion. If Freewaves really stands for “uncensored independent new media,” then perhaps someone from the organization will have a twinge of social consciousness and hook up a live video feed of BP’s erupting oil volcano.

Tickets for the “ostrich-with-head-in-sand” affair can be purchased at, yes – the BP Grand Entrance at LACMA. Ticket prices are $10 per person, and no, the money will not be donated to help rescue, clean-up, and nurse back to health, those thousands of oiled sea birds in the Gulf of Mexico.

[Update - June 24: BP has repositioned its "containment cap" over the blown-out well, and has resumed siphoning oil from the broken pipeline. BP placed the containment cap over its ruptured pipe after all other attempts to shut off the flow ended in failure; the cap has not plugged the gushing pipe, it just allows for the capture of a certain amount of oil. BP claims of siphoning off up to 16,000 barrels a day are controversial, given that the oil company previously said 5,000 barrels a day were leaking. BP has promised to stop the leak by August, when two relief wells presently being drilled will supposedly cut off the oil by filling the well with heavy cement. There are no assurances the plan will succeed, and until then well over 60,000 barrels of crude oil will gush into the ocean every day for two months.]

Art Contest: BP Logo Redesign

BP: Broken Promises – Logo design submitted by Foye. 2010. The artist had the following to say about the design, "'Back to Black' is a term aimed at maximum brand damage – BP have spent hundreds of millions re-branding themselves as the good green oil company. The helios in this image is fading, petals falling to the ground – creating a sense of behind the brand image."

BP: Broken Promises – Logo design by Foye. 2010. The artist said the following about the design, "'Back to Black' is a term aimed at maximum brand damage – BP have spent hundreds of millions re-branding themselves as the good green oil company. The helios in this image is fading, petals falling to the ground – creating a sense of behind the brand image."

As BP’s broken underwater oil well in the Gulf of Mexico continues to gush over 100,000 barrels of oil per day into the fragile ecosystem, and as sheets of the thick sticky crude start to fill the delicate marsh lands of the Mississippi Delta – Greenpeace UK has launched an art competition to redesign the BP corporate logo.

The contest is open to professional and non-professional artists from around the world. Greenpeace UK says that the current corporate logo needs “a makeover to better suit a company that invests in tar sands and other unconventional oil sources like deep water oil,” and that a redesigned logo should better reflect BP’s “dirty business.”

Starting on May 20, 2010, the design contest will run for six weeks, ending on June 28, 2010. The environmental group says the winning logo design will be “used by us in innovative and exciting ways as part of our international campaign against the oil company,” and will be placed in high profile locations, as well as featured in newspaper and magazine advertisements. Entries will be judged by a panel of artists from the design and marketing professions, whose identities will be revealed as the competition draws to a close.

Submitted artworks can be created in any media, the only criteria being that the re-worked logo adheres to the concept of exposing BP, and that the logo is easy to comprehend and reproduce. Non-professional artists and students are encouraged to submit their ideas and concepts, as Greenpeace UK will provide such a contest winner “a day with a top graphic designer to transform your idea into a final product.”

BP: Bitumen Pilferers – Anonymous. 2010. The designer turned BP’s radiant green sunflower icon into a dead flower dripping with oil. Bitumen of course is the hydrocarbon obtained by the distillation of petroleum or coal; the substance commonly being used as a component of tar and asphalt.

BP: Bitumen Pilferers – Anonymous. 2010. The designer turned BP’s green sunflower icon into a dead flower dripping with oil. Bitumen of course is the hydrocarbon obtained by distilling petroleum or coal; the substance is commonly used as a component of tar and asphalt.

John Sauven, the Executive Director of Greenpeace UK, said the following regarding the launch of the logo competition; “BP’s famous green logo is there to distract us from what this company really stands for. This company has chosen to extract the last drops of oil from deep sea wells and the tar sands of Canada, instead of developing the clean technologies that can actually help beat climate change. That’s why we’re calling in the experts. We’re hoping that the design community and the public will help us come up with a logo that will actually reflect BP’s obsession with dirty oil. This is a competition with a difference, because we’re planning to use the winning entry all over Britain in a high profile Greenpeace campaign that the company will find impossible to spin.”

Complete details on the competition and how to submit an entry, are available on the Greenpeace website, at: www.greenpeace.org.uk

It should be noted that Greenpeace UK launched the design competition by simultaneously deploying trained climbers to scale the front entrance of BP’s London headquarters, where the Greenpeace activists replaced BP’s large corporate flag with a redesigned banner of their own.

Greenpeace UK released the following statement to the public regarding the event; “Our climbers have scaled the front of BP’s London HQ to present them with a logo that we think might suit them a little better. Our logo has been ‘improved’ with the addition of a bit of oil and a tagline that reads ‘British polluters.’ It’s an OK effort, but we’re sure you can do much better. So today we’re launching a competition to get you to redesign BP’s logo to suit a company that’s investing in unconventional oil like the Canadian tar sands.”

Accelerated Decay – Logo design submitted by Frank. 2010. The artist had the following to say about his design, "My approach shows both the tarnishing of the BP brand itself and the accelerated decay certain practices of it may cause the globe. While to many the damage may seem as though it's minimal or not impacting them, the ultimate destination is the witherment of life."

Accelerated Decay – Logo design submitted by Frank. 2010. The artist said the following about his design, "My approach shows both the tarnishing of the BP brand itself and the accelerated decay certain practices of it may cause the globe. While to many the damage may seem as though it's minimal or not impacting them, the ultimate destination is the witherment of life."

One of the Greenpeace climbers, Ben Stewart, made the following statement;

“The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico can be traced back to decisions made in this building. Under Tony Hayward’s leadership (the company’s chief executive) BP has taken huge risks to pump oil from ever more remote places, while slashing investment in the clean energy projects that could actually help reduce our dependence on oil and beat climate change.

BP’s bright green logo is a pathetic attempt to distract our attention from the reality of what this company is doing, both in the Gulf of Mexico but also in places like the tar sands of Canada. Tony Hayward’s reckless approach will cause more disasters unless action is taken to stop him.”

On a related note, at last someone aside from me has bothered to mention the financial relationship between BP and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which I have been writing about in great detail since March 2007.

In his brief May 18, 2010 article, BP Grand Entrance at LACMA looking not-quite-so-grand, Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight noted the ongoing “epic environmental tragedy” caused in the Gulf by BP, and playfully suggested that “LACMA might want to think about commissioning a work of art that would be apt for the BP Grand Entrance.”

An architectural design for a "BP Grand Entrance" at LACMA more in keeping with the oil company’s terrible record of environmental destruction. First proposed by this writer in October 2007.

An architectural design for a "BP Grand Entrance" at LACMA more in keeping with the oil company’s terrible record of environmental destruction. First proposed by this writer in October 2007.

Of course, in October of 2007 I had proposed just such an artwork in my article, Another Oil Slick at LACMA, which detailed BP having to “pay a whopping $373 million in an out of court settlement designed to stop U.S. Justice Department criminal indictments against the global energy giant’s law-breaking in the United States.” In that piece I proposed an architectural design (shown at right) for a “BP Grand Entrance” at LACMA more in keeping with the oil company’s terrible record of environmental destruction.

But Knight’s article also mentioned that BP funded the creation of an exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, which has officially been dubbed, the “BP Sea Otter Habitat.” Now that is a concept difficult to imagine.

Four years ago BP gave a $1 million “donation” to the Aquarium of the Pacific, which used the petro dollars to build its new BP Sea Otter Habitat, an attraction that “transports visitors to California’s Central Coast,” providing a recreation of a rocky coastline where visitors can “peer underwater and discover the busy world of sea otters as they swim and interact amongst kelp and fish.” The BP Sea Otter Habitat presents an accurate peek at the pristine environment of California’s Central Coast, with its crystalline waters and giant kelp beds filled with mollusks, crustaceans, and innumerable fish. As a former scuba diver, that ecosystem is well familiar to me, and it has long been a source of constant inspiration and awe. But that unspoiled natural beauty is a far cry from the “Dead Zone” now being created in the Gulf of Mexico by BP.

The Louisiana governor's office released this aerial photograph showing thick streams of heavy crude oil as it penetrates the marsh lands of the Louisiana coastline at the Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal toured the Mississippi Delta by boat on Wednesday, May 19,saying of the BP spill; "This is serious - this is the heavy oil that everyone has been fearing. It is hear now. This is one of the oldest wildlife mangagement areas here in Louisiana, and now it is covered in oil."

The Louisiana governor's office released this aerial photograph showing thick streams of heavy crude oil as it penetrates the marsh lands of the Louisiana coastline at the Pass a Loutre Wildlife Management Area. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal toured the Mississippi Delta by boat on Wednesday, May 19, saying of the BP spill; "This is serious - this is the heavy oil that everyone has been fearing. It is here now. This is one of the oldest wildlife mangagement areas here in Louisiana, and now it is covered in oil."

While sea otters do not live in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says that 600 animal species are directly imperiled by BP’s ongoing ecological disaster; 445 species of fish, 45 mammals, 32 reptiles and amphibians, and 134 bird species.

On May 20, biologists of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge found the first oil covered brown pelican to have died from exposure to BP’s massive oil spill – and there are some 4,500 pelicans nesting at the refuge; which brings me back to the BP Sea Otter Habitat at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

To launch its new BP exhibit, the Aquarium of the Pacific announced its “Sea Otter Poetry Contest.” Commencing May 20, 2010, and running until August 15, 2010, contestants worldwide are being asked to submit a poem no longer than 300 words on the theme of sea otters. Poems are to be judged in two categories: those penned by writers’ ages 13 through 20, and those written by authors over 21. All entries must be submitted digitally or by mail, by midnight Aug. 15, 2010. First Prize winners will have their works published in the Aquarium’s magazine and on the Aquarium’s website, plus assorted prizes for Second and Third Prize winners. The Aquarium of the Pacific will announce the winners on October 27, 2010. Details on entering the BP sponsored Poetry Contest can be found on the Aquarium’s website.

Poetry has always provided a means to touch the heart as well as the intellect, and many a poet has dedicated verse and rhyme to excoriate the evils of the day, using the evocative language of poetry as social protest – the BP sponsored Aquarium of the Pacific’s Sea Otter Poetry Contest presents no less an opportunity. I believe that every lover of the written word should submit a poem to this contest, as it is a creative way to denounce BP’s role in destroying our planet, as well as expressing our vision of humanity truly at peace with the natural world.

Though sea otters do not live in the Gulf of Mexico, creative writers will no doubt be able to pen verse that connects the aquatic mammal with the crimes against nature being committed by BP. For those who wish to submit a poem of outrage to the Sea Otter Poetry Contest, but hesitate to do so out of concern that the BP sponsored Aquarium will simply ignore the entry, simply “CC” an e-mail copy of your poem to Art For A Change – where I will post the best submissions on October 27, 2010, the very day the winners of the BP sponsored Poetry Contest are announced by the Aquarium of the Pacific.

BP’s Oil Slick: LACMA Woes

A postmodern artwork in LACMA's collection?

A postmodern artwork in LACMA's collection?

If you think the eerie green photograph shown at left is just another postmodern artwork to be found in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), then you are not too far off the mark. While the weird image was certainly not conjured up by one of today’s fashionable art stars, it is in a manner of speaking, one of LACMA’s most recent acquisitions, and it has been supplied by one of the museum’s leading benefactors.

In March of 2007, LACMA’s Director Michael Govan struck a deal with oil giant BP (British Petroleum). Govan agreed to accept a $25 million “donation” from BP that would help in the renovation of the museum, and in return the entry way on LACMA’s newly expanded campus would be christened, “The BP Grand Entrance.” At the time Govan touted BP as a “green” company, telling the Los Angeles Times that he accepted the oil company’s money because: “What was convincing to me was their commitment to sustainable energy (….) We won’t make the transition without the help and cooperation of these major corporations.”

Since that March 2007 deal I have unremittingly covered the oily relationship between LACMA and BP – and the story only continues to worsen. The above photograph is not part of LACMA’s collection, though it could be included in an exhibit that explores just exactly what a “commitment to sustainable energy” means to the museum and its director. In actuality the photo was taken by the U.S. Coast Guard, and it shows a broken underwater oil pipe that is presently spewing over 42,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico per day. That particular oil drilling operation gone awry is run by none other than LACMA’s major patron, British Petroleum. LACMA has not acquired a work of art, but the stain of collaborating with one of the planet’s most rapacious polluters.

You may have heard about the tragic fire and explosion on the huge Deepwater Horizon oil rig located in the Gulf of Mexico, if not, ask Michael Govan about it. The oil rig was owned and operated by the Swiss based firm Transocean; however, its operations were under lease to British Petroleum. Transocean was drilling an exploration well for BP when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on April 26, 2010 – killing eleven workers. The capsized rig, with a platform larger than a football field, broke away from the pipe that connected it to the oil well 5,000 feet below the ocean surface; the broken underwater drilling infrastructure is now pouring out 1,000 barrels of crude oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico. At the time of this writing, the growing oil slick covers well over 3,360 square miles of ocean, and there are fears the massive slick will affect the coastal communities of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

BP’s enormous oil slick, less than 36 miles from the Louisiana coast, is directly threatening the Breton National Wildlife Refuge and the Delta National Wildlife Refuge. Located off the coast of Louisiana, Breton Refuge is the second oldest wildlife refugee in the U.S. Founded in 1904 by President Theodore Roosevelt, it is accessible only by boat and it provides habitat and colonies for over twenty-three species of seabirds and shorebirds. Delta Refuge is located at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Established in 1934, its 49,000 acres provides habitat to huge numbers of fish, mammals, reptiles, and birds. If the oil slick were to reach these nature reserves, the result would be a catastrophe of unparalleled dimension. As it is, BP’s oil slick will cause tremendous devastation to the fragile marine ecosystem found in the Gulf of Mexico, and untold numbers of fish, birds, mammals, and crustaceans that live in the Gulf will die.

The Gulf of Mexico oil slick confirms BP actually stands for “Big Profits” and not “Beyond Petroleum.” On April 27, as the U.S. Coast Guard struggled to contain the ecological disaster in the Gulf, BP posted a huge surge in its earnings – a phenomenal increase in profits from last year’s $2.39 billion to this year’s $6.08 billion. Now that BP is glutted with oil and flush with cash, perhaps LACMA’s Michael Govan can ask them for another “donation.” I am sure BP could use an excellent public relations gimmick right about now, so I would like to suggest that LACMA construct “The Grand Deepwater Horizon Exit Gate” as part of their new BP financed campus.

While Govan and BP run for political cover in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, they will not be alone in doing so. Just days after millions of people in the U.S. celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, what is left of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is gushing crude into the Gulf in a slick so massive it is larger than the state of Rhode Island. NASA has photographed the gigantic slick from space. And what is the response from President Obama, especially since he has announced a plan to open over 500,000 square miles of U.S. coastal waters to oil drilling – including a vast area in the Gulf of Mexico that has never before been drilled? On April 23 President Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs alleged there is no reason to give up plans to expand offshore oil drilling, declaring; “In all honesty I doubt this is the first accident that has happened and I doubt it will be the last.” Perhaps when Michael Govan leaves LACMA in disgrace, he can get a job in the Obama administration.

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 On May 20, 2010, Greenpeace UK launched an art competition (www.greenpeace.org.uk) to redesign the BP corporate logo. In this anonymous submission to the contest, the designer transformed BP’s green sunflower icon into the eye of an oil covered sea bird.

On May 20, 2010, Greenpeace UK launched an art competition (www.greenpeace.org.uk) to redesign the BP corporate logo. In this anonymous submission to the contest, the designer transformed BP’s green sunflower icon into the eye of an oil covered sea bird.

Updates, May 20 through 29, 2010: On Saturday, May 29, the Associated Press reported that BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles admitted that BP’s “Top Kill” effort to stop the oil leak was a complete failure. Suttles commented, “This scares everybody, the fact that we can’t make this well stop flowing, the fact that we haven’t succeeded so far.”

On May 27, national and international media, taking information from BP and the Obama administration’s U.S. Coast Guard, reported that BP’s “Top Kill” effort to stop the torrent of oil from gushing into the ocean was a “success” and that “industry and government engineers had pumped enough drilling fluid to block oil and gas spewing from the well.”

Yahoo News and CBS News both reported that at President Obama’s May 28th press conference on a beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana, an event meant to show the president was “in control” of response efforts, BP bused in hundreds of temporary workers to clean-up oil off the beach. After Obama left the scene, BP dismissed the workers.

May 27, national and international media report the U.S. government’s pronouncement that the BP catastrophe is the worst eco-disaster in U.S. history – with U.S. Geological Survey scientists calculating that the broken BP pipeline is spewing more than one million gallons of crude a day into the Gulf of Mexico, the gusher will no doubt become the worst eco-disaster in world history. Starting on May 20, 2010, Greenpeace UK launched an art competition to redesign the BP corporate logo.

Updates, May 15, 2010: The U.K. Telegraph reported that President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency gave BP permission to use massive amounts of a chemical dispersant underwater, despite there being no scientific knowledge regarding the ecological dangers posed by such a huge application of the toxic chemical known as “Corexit.” The New York Times reported that to date, BP has applied more than 400,000 gallons of Corexit in the Gulf of Mexico, and it has 805,000 gallons of the chemical on order. The New York Times also revealed that “of the 18 dispersants whose use EPA has approved, 12 were found to be more effective” than Corexit. The toxicity of the 12 alternatives was in some cases “10 or 20 times less” than Corexit. Nalco manufactures Corexit, and that company’s current leadership includes executives from BP and Exxon - LACMA and its director Michael Govan continue to remain silent regarding their ongoing financial relationship to BP.

UPDATES, May 5 through 14, 2010: A National Day of Protest against BP was called for May 12, 2010, with protests held in U.S. cities from Los Angeles to New York City - Both NPR and the New York Times have reported that scientists are saying the BP broken rig is spilling, not 5,000 barrels a day, but up to 100,000 barrels a dayPolitico.com reported that President Obama has “received a total of $77,051″ from BP over the last 20 years, making him “the top recipient of BP PAC and individual money.” -  McClatchy Newspapers reports that “Since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded on April 20, the Obama administration has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico.”

[ Friends of the Earth are asking people to sign their online petition calling for President Obama to abandon his plans for expanded offshore oil drilling. ]

LACMA & BP’s Iraqi Oil Fields

BP - Beyond Petroleum?On July 1, 2009, the U.S. backed Iraqi government announced that BP (British Petroleum) and China National Petroleum Corp., had been awarded contracts to exploit Iraq’s al-Rumeila oil field – one of the largest oil fields in the world. In the past BP has attempted to rebrand itself as a “clean energy” company, going so far as to promote itself under the alternative name - Beyond Petroleum. CNN reports:

“Iraq did not say how much the BP-CNPC bid was worth. It runs for 20 years. (….) Iraq has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, with an estimated 115 billion barrels - tying Iran for second place, behind Saudi Arabia’s 264 billion barrels, according to estimates from the Energy Information Administration in the United States.”

Here it must be noted that in March of 2007, BP revealed it had donated $25 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to help pay for the museum’s expansion and renovation. This was followed by LACMA Director Michael Govan publicizing plans to erect a massive entry gate to the museum that will display the name - BP Grand Entrance. It was highly touted that giant solar panels will top the gate, providing the museum with some of its energy needs. Explaining why he decided to pursue British Petroleum as a major corporate backer of LACMA, Govan stated in a 2007 interview with the Los Angeles Times: “What was convincing to me was their commitment to sustainable energy.”

With BP now in charge of exploiting Iraq’s largest oil field, LACMA’s rationalizing taking money from a company committed “to sustainable energy” is as threadbare as the reasons behind the continuing U.S. military occupation of Iraq.

Armed Guards at LACMA

Armed guards carrying clubs and loaded guns now patrol the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM), the latest addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. No less than three armed guards have been seen patrolling the BCAM, with one security officer assigned to watch over Damien Hirst’s installation Away from the Flock - a dead lamb pickled in formaldehyde that Eli Broad purchased in 2006 for $3.38 million.

The armed guards do not patrol any of LACMA’s other galleries, where the museum’s invaluable collection of masterworks by artists from around the world and throughout time are housed; only the pricey postmodern collection of billionaire Eli Broad amassed under the BCAM rooftop are afforded protection by uniformed, gun-toting private security men. Is this part of the supposed “visionary leadership” provided by LACMA Director, Michael Govan?

The open presence of uniformed armed men in a major art museum is abhorrant and contradictory to the very spirit of art - there are certainly wiser and more effective ways of protecting museum collections than the filling of galleries with gun wielding sentries.

LACMA hired the armed guards from Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc., which in its own words is a “leading U.S. security company, providing a full range of physical security services to commercial and industrial customers on four continents. (…) Inter-Con has achieved a position of international leadership in the field of diplomatic security provided to the U.S. and foreign governments.” Once can only imagine what this means, since Inter-Con does not provide a list of its clients. I am not the only one to be annoyed by this development. In his article, Under the gun is no way to view art, Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight writes;

“It’s hard to imagine almost any scenario in which an art museum guard might shoot someone, but that bizarre thought keeps bumping around in your brain at BCAM. Needless to say, it has a less than salutary effect on the art experience. As a rule, art museums don’t discuss their security precautions. For obvious reasons, they prefer them to be as unobtrusive as possible. That institutional reticence is what makes this glaring aberration so weird. Visual intimidation by gun- and baton-toting guards shouts that security is a pressing issue — and that BCAM requires more than any museum in town.”

Having set the precedent of introducing uniformed armed security personnel into the galleries of LACMA, perhaps in the near future Mr. Govan will hire Blackwater Worldwide to provide protection for the museum’s so-called “BP Grand Entrance“.

Spiral Jetty, Big Oil, & LACMA

Spiral Jetty - Robert Smithson

[ Spiral Jetty - Robert Smithson. 1970. The famous earthwork construction in Utah imperiled by oil drilling. ]


A story by Kirk Johnson titled Plans to Mix Oil Drilling and Art Clash in Utah, appeared in the March 27th edition of the New York Times. The article details how oil drilling in the Great Salt Lake of Utah may threaten Spiral Jetty, the famous earthwork construction created by artist Robert Smithson in 1970. Quoting the NYT’s piece:

“A fierce debate, with equal parts art, environmentalism and economics, has erupted over a plan by the state to allow oil drilling about five miles across the lake. The owner of ‘Spiral Jetty,’ the Dia Art Foundation in New York, in an alliance with a conservation group called Friends of Great Salt Lake, says the oil rigs would harm the work’s aesthetic experience. Led by their drumbeat of protest, more than 3,000 e-mail messages, mostly against the drilling plan, were received by the state during a public comment period last month. A decision by the state about whether to let the drilling go forward is expected in April.”

But it’s not just concern over Smithson’s artwork that has made oil drilling in the Great Salt Lake a hot button issue. Environmentalist groups like The Nature Conservatory explain that the Great Salt Lake and its surrounding wetlands “provide important nesting and foraging habitat for over 250 species of birds.” In fact the lake is a critical stopover for some six million migrating birds that fly annually from North to South America. Eco-tourists have been flocking to the lake for some of the best bird watching in the United States. It’s difficult to believe that oil drilling will not have a negative impact upon the migratory bird population and the associated booming eco-tourist industry.

The Friends of Great Salt Lake have spearheaded the resistance to the proposed oil drilling by Pearl Montana Exploration and Production, LTD., and the environmental group elicited the help of Mr. Smithson’s widow, artist Nancy Holt, who wrote an appeal to action that resulted in the State of Utah receiving over 3,000 letters protesting the anticipated oil drilling. I too am opposed to the despoiling of the Great Salt Lake area by the oil industry, and I have nothing but admiration for the coalition of art enthusiasts and environmentalists who, through democratic grass roots activism, have stood up to defend Smithson’s artwork as well as the Great Salt Lake environs.

It is interesting to note that the Dia Art Foundation of New York City, which is one of the major organizations opposed to the oil drilling, had Michael Govan as its President and Director from 1994 to 2006. Govan left the foundation in ‘06 to become the Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). One of his first moves as Director of LACMA was to broker a funding arrangement between the museum and BP (British Petroleum). The oil giant agreed to make a “gift” of $25 million dollars to LACMA, and in return the museum’s new entry gate would be christened the “BP Grand Entrance”.

In a 2007 interview with the Los Angeles Times Mr. Govan justified taking BP’s money by saying, “What was convincing to me was their commitment to sustainable energy”, a statement rendered ludicrous by a recent news report published by MSN Money on March 26, 2008. Titled Oil giant backs off green push, reporter Michael Brush’s article draws attention to the fact that BP’s “energy production declined 3% in 2007, and operating profits were down 6.4%”, which has “brought growing pressure from analysts to build oil reserves fast.” As a result BP is beginning to tap Canada’s oil sands, vast tracts of land in Alberta and Saskatchewan that contain a “hydrocarbon-rich mixture of bitumen, sand, water and clay” (….) These huge deposits give Canada the second-largest petroleum holdings in the world, behind only Saudi Arabia.”

As the MSN Money report points out, “producing oil from tar sands requires so much energy that it creates three to five times as much carbon dioxide as production from wells.” The extraction process “requires roads and pipelines that slice up forests - a huge impact on the local ecosystem.” And “production of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide linked to mining tar sands has caused a spike in acid rain in Western Canada.”

Commenting on BP’s move to extract oil from Canadian sand, Josh Mogerman of the Natural Resources Defense Council is quoted in the MSN Money article as having said, “There was this one shining moment where they (BP) looked like they were going to be the good guys, and they’ve just rapidly moved away from it. (….) This is an issue of how they portray themselves in the media compared to what they are doing to impact the rest of the world. They could live up to the image they portray. But they chose not to.” LACMA’s Michael Govan should pay attention to those words and return the $25 million he accepted from BP.