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National Gallery Complicit in Arms Trade - Disarm the National Gallery

mswithacause | 23.04.2012 16:19 | Anti-militarism | Culture | Terror War | World

On 31st March 2012, Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) & Stop the Arms Fair (STAF) launched a campaign to ‘Disarm the National Gallery’ in Trafalgar Square, London. A video of this action including never seen before footage of protests & discussions inside the National Gallery and an interview with BBC correspondent & Channel 4 reporter Paraic O’Brien at Stop the Arms Fair 2011 can be viewed here -

Our National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London
Our National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London

Flamboyant artist painting outside the National Gallery, 2012
Flamboyant artist painting outside the National Gallery, 2012

Canadian visitor on learning that NG hosts Arms Dealers is upset
Canadian visitor on learning that NG hosts Arms Dealers is upset

Our National Gallery houses the national collection of Western European paintings allowing visitors free entry. Unbeknown to many, it also functions as a venue for arm dealer soirees in exchange for token funds. Our National Gallery regularly prostitutes its premises to arms companies who use our gallery to wine & dine arms traders with a view to securing business deals. Undoubtedly, these premises have been specially procured by arms traders as an attempt to legitimise and give the arms trade a veneer of respectability.

Finmeccanica, the world’s 8th largest arms company pays our National Gallery £30,000 pa to use the ‘Gallery's rooms for its 'corporate entertaining', namely, to impress its clients and lobby decision-makers. ‘By entering into this arrangement the Gallery is giving both practical support and a veneer of legitimacy to an industry based on death and destruction.’ Finmeccanica is an Italian company. In 2010, its arms production totalled US$14.4 billion. This provides some indication of the fiscal value of the arms trade.

Finmeccanica is being investigated for corruption relating to the ‘alleged inflation of contracts, with the proceeds moved into slush funds that prosecutors allege were used to bribe politicians and others.’

Set up of our National Gallery

Our gallery is a non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and has charitable status but is exempt from the need to register with the Charity Commission. The Gallery’s Director, Nicholas Penny is also the ‘Accounting Officer appointed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.’

Ian Pocock from STAF confirmed that ‘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. That is taxpayer’s money and it makes up the vast majority of its income.’

Disarm the National Gallery Launch

Flamboyant artists took seat outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square equipped with easels and pallets of vibrant coloured paint. Whilst artists dedicated time to perfecting their masterpieces, crowds of onlookers walked curiously by engrossed at the spectacle before them. The stage created: Artists sporting powder blue overalls, berets and moustaches, in the backdrop of the commanding grandeur of our National Gallery.

Other human right campaigners spoke to interested members of the public informing them of our National Gallery’s complicity in the arms trade and inviting them to sign a petition or write a message on a postcard which is to be delivered to Nicholas Penny.

A Canadian visitor on learning that our National Gallery is hosting Arms Dealers was shocked and shared, art is “not a way to feed into the dark places of society.. the two should not be one with each other… I can’t speak about to you about this; this is upsetting.”

On the day, many questioned why the Gallery chose to close their immodest main entrance which is usually open on a busy Saturday. Could this decision reflect the Gallery’s conceded shame of their underhand affairs clearly being brought to light by the protest before them? Instead, Gallery staff ushered visitors into a single file queue towards a discreet side entrance door which in contrast was humiliating.

Whilst the artists were outside painting, the National Gallery felt compelled to tweet: ‘The National Gallery is not hosting an event for any company during the week of the Farnborough Air Show.’ Ian Pocock confirmed that ‘someone else tweeted in response, what about before or after that week?

A human rights campaigner said, “so when you are watching TV and you see people in Syria for example lying bleeding on the pavement, then just remember that it’s probably the arms that have killed them have been bought in this country and its these arms dealers who the National Gallery are hosting who are actually selling these arms to them.”

CAAT have confirmed that ‘The Gallery's current deal with arms company Finmeccanica runs until October 2013, but negotiations for renewal will start much earlier.’ CAAT have highlighted the need for pressure to be exerted now and are calling upon the National Gallery ‘not to host further receptions for arms companies and to end its sponsorship arrangements with arms companies’. They are asking the public to please email Nicholas Penny, who can be emailed here -

What is DSEi?

DSEi is a four day arms bazaar organised by Clarion Event, taking place every two years at London’s Excel Centre.

The DSEi website informs, ‘With over 1,300 exhibitors’, DSEi ‘provides a unique platform to view the latest equipment and systems from the world’s defence and security industry, such as BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and Finmeccanica. DSEi provides an opportunity for visitors to develop international relationships and generate new business opportunities. DSEi gives you the chance to:

• View the full capability of the international defence and security industry at a single exhibition
• Witness the latest developments in products and services – learn, take home new ideas that will improve performance – touch and see the future of the defence industry
• Make new contacts – It’s the major meeting point for the global defence & security industry at this time of year
• Network with every element of the defence supply chain
• Participate in information sharing through our EXPANDED seminar and demonstration programme’

For further information about DSEi please visit -

Paraic O’Brien on DSEi 2011

On 13th September 2011, as arms traders covertly in collaboration with our police force and National Gallery Management, entered the National Gallery for their ‘drinks reception’, a gentleman was approached who at first it was suspected may be an arms dealer. It transpired that he was actually Paraic O’Brien, BBC correspondent and now channel 4 reporter. Paraic confirmed that he had visited the arms fair earlier that day as a BBC reporter and kindly gave me some inside news of what he witnessed there.

“Can you tell me what was happening inside & what did you see?”

“I saw various different armaments for sale, although they weren’t actually selling them there. I was kinda on the lookout for some you know, properly shifty sun glass wearing cigar chomping arms dealer types and to be honest they all just look like a load of middle aged accountants to me. So I was a tad disappointed to be honest”

“It’s not what they look like it’s what they are there doing.”

“I mean the people that were there, you know, they weren’t actually buying and selling over the counter it wasn’t like a retail fair but it was interesting, you know it was quite an eye opener to see”

“What did you find interesting and what was eye opening for you?”

“Well just the amount of sort of hardware that was for sale there. It was odd so see that amount of stuff..”

“When you say hardware what are you talking about?”

“Missiles, tanks, machine guns, there was one interesting stall which was selling bullets for snipers and the tag line was, the name of the bullet and then dot dot dot the snipers choice which I found…slightly unsettling.”

“Were there any seminars going on?”

“Yes there were briefing sessions. Michael Fox, the Secretary of Defence was speaking and talking about what the defence industry contributes to the economy.”

“And what was that. What did he tell you?”

“I can’t remember the figure but he was talking about the sort of size of the contribution that the defence industry makes to this countries capita”

“So basically he is saying that by making weapons and by selling weapons it’s contributing to the economy which is why we should be doing it; he was promoting?”

“Yeah..(nod of the head)”

“And how did that make you feel?”

“Well to be honest because I am a reporter I am not going to tell you my own personal opinions and thoughts about the issue, you know, that wouldn’t really be appropriate because I was there a professional as a BBC reporter.”

“Are you going to the reception that being held at the National Gallery now, is that what you are here for?”

“No, I am on my way home and saw you guys out here, so this is part of my continuing reporting of what happened today.”

Stop The Arms Fair

STAF is a coalition of groups and individuals campaigning ‘to end government support for ‘DSEi 2011 and all future arms fairs and to put a stop to them.’ In September 2011, STAF organised large scale anti- arms protests with numerous actions taking place. A video of an ‘anti-drones’ action outside the offices of ‘General Atomics’ makers of the ‘Predator & Reaper Drones’, in London & featuring an interview with Amy Hailwood, member of STAF at the Fellowship of Reconciliation discussing the use of drones can be viewed here -

The next DSEI arms fair is scheduled for 10-13th September 2013. Planning for anti-arms fair action starts early and is creative. For more information or how you can get involved please visit the STAF website -

STAF are seeking to build a ‘large coalition of groups and individuals in support and invite all who ‘would like to join the coalition as a group or individual’ to come along to a planning meeting or contact them directly. You can contact STAF here -

National Gallery’s Ethical Policy – Please Email Nicholas Penny

CAAT investigations reveal that our National Gallery has an “ethical fundraising policy”. CAAT confirm ‘this provides that “As an institution that exists for the public and receives public funding the Gallery has...a desire to show that it’s 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.’

Please email Nicholas Penny and ask him not to host any further receptions for arms companies and to end all its sponsorship arrangements with arms companies. Nicholas Penny can be emailed here -

In recent times, the most oppressive regime is America and its allies which include the U.K. They inhibit the freedoms & lives of millions of people around the world and attempt by implementation and policing of their laws and use of their media to prevent public awareness and feelings that reasonably arise against their criminal behaviour.

Assalamu alaikum, peace be upon you

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