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Oil on canvas: Semi-naked climate activists protest BP art sponsorship

Visitors to London's National Portrait Gallery were treated to an impromptu performance on Sunday (October 20) when three semi-naked climate activists were doused with mock crude oil in a protest against arts sponsorship by British oil company BP.

Activists spread a white sheet over the floor of the main hall of the gallery's Ondaatje wing before two women and a man wearing only underwear adopted foetal positions on the covering.

Protesters then slowly doused the prone performers with washable black liquid as activist Eden Rickson read a poem asking the gallery to stop accepting sponsorship money from BP.

The gallery said BP's support for its Portrait Award encouraged the work of artists around the world and enabled free admission to an exhibition, which had drawn more than 300,000 visitors this year.

"The ongoing debate around BP's sponsorship of the arts raises important questions about both the environment and arts funding, and we are listening carefully to voices on all sides," the gallery said in a statement.