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Byron Shire
September 24, 2021

GoMA may be reconsidering Santos sponsorship

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A 'koala' at Generation Alpha's protests at Brisbane' GoMA on Wednesday.
A ‘koala’ at Generation Alpha’s protests at Brisbane’ GoMA on Wednesday.

Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) may be reconsidering taking sponsorship from CSG miner Santos amid protests at the gallery aimed at pointing up the company’s toxic practices.

A group called Generation Alpha has been challenging GoMA’s sponsorship in the media and through a series of actions at the gallery.

On Wednesday Generation Alpha members made a creative statement using coal seam water from Santos’ Pilliga Forest operations in the context of the water-based artwork Heritage, by Cai Guo-Qiang, at GoMA.

It was recently revealed that a ‘pollution incident’ at the company’s Narrabri gas field operations in the Pilliga caused contamination of a nearby aquifer with uranium 20 times higher than safe drinking water levels as well as other dangerous heavy metals.

Using the artwork as a backdrop, Generation Alpha spokesperson Ben Pennings held a bottle of CSG water up to the crowd.

“This is coal seam water from Pilliga forest where Santos poisoned a fresh water aquifer with arsenic, uranium, lead and nickel,’ he said.

‘GoMA doesn’t want us to poison this wonderful artwork, and we won’t. But they are happy to accept money from Santos, who poisoned fresh water over 30 times last financial year,’ he added.

‘GoMA is a public institution and shouldn’t have a sponsor that poisons our water and farmland. Santos use GoMA to buy social acceptability, to sanitise their dirty name. We will continue to target GoMA to tell the truth about Santos,’ Mr Pennings said.

As part of the stunt, a thirsty ‘koala’ then dramatically stole the CSG for a drink, keeling over from the poison.

Generation Alpha believe their stunts are starting to make an impact on the gallery, and say GoMA is quietly conducting market research among gallery visitors to ‘test the water’ over Santos’s sponsorship.

The group say they have been approached by a man who wished to be known only as Ken, who says he was quizzed on the suitability of the sponsorship while at the gallery recently

“A young woman in a red T-shirt approached me doing some market research’, he is quoted as saying.

‘[She] specifically asked me about Santos sponsoring the gallery and the exhibition and how appropriate I thought this was.”

Generation Alpha say they will continue to keep up the pressure on the institution.

“The Pilliga forest is a crucial habitat for a dwindling koala population. Santos has put koalas at risk by poisoning a fresh water aquifer in Pilliga forest with arsenic, uranium, lead and nickel.

‘GoMA celebrates natural heritage through powerful artworks while Santos destroys natural heritage through their destructive practices. GoMA is a public institution and shouldn’t have a sponsor that poisons our water, farmland and natural heritage,” Mr Pennings said.

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  1. This is very important that the general public become aware that Santos is using Art to help greenwash its brand. I admire anyone that has the courage to speak up and out about the tragedies that are in front of us everyday.

  2. Interesting to hear that GoMA have had Santos as a sponsor.
    Art is the voice of feeling, of depth and direction, a voice of Creation. YAY.

    – Perhaps Santos can be reached by artworks inspired by Santos (Corporate) money direction, (Ecocide) .

    My suggestion would be to invite artists to comment with their art, to present to the Sponsors and Gallery at the same time.What ever happens will be honest and egalitarian, and it will be up to share holders and board of Santos, to respond.
    Lets have a relationship with these “people” where the feeling can be related to them and has a chance to reach somewhere.

  3. Fair enough! They’re free to bite the hand that feeds them. Just don’t expect the taxpayer to take up any shortfall in funding like the Bienalle crowd were expecting.

  4. It really makes me rethink the GOMA which has consisted represented artists and art that is liberal and deeply democratic in spirit. To see Santos reps handing out pamphlets inside the GOMA while a solitary protestor is menaced by security – and there sure is a lot of the plain clothes variety – is very disappointing.
    The GOMA needs to be proactive about who it chooses to sponsor its exhibitions: the GOMA has fallen back to earth hard!

  5. Business as usual with the greenwash.maybe a couple of the animals at the pond should actualy be floating belly up in the pond ? That would depict a bit of reality


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