National Gallery cuts arms link as CAAT wins prize

IssueNovember 2012
News by PN staff

On 10 October, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) celebrated a victory in helping to break sponsorship links between arms manufacturer Finmeccanica and London's National Gallery. The news came just days after CAAT heard that it had won a Right Livelihood Award, known as the 'alternative Nobel Prize', given by a Stockholm-based foundation.

The National Gallery ended its long-standing contract with Finnmeccanica a year early, and just weeks before the next 'Disarm the Gallery' protest. 

Since 2006, under Finnmeccanica's sponsorship, the gallery has hosted receptions for international arms fairs, including the official reception for London's Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) in September 2011 – where 10 repressive regimes, including Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, were among those invited to shop for weapons.

Finmeccanica is the world's eighth largest arms company, producing drones and fighter aircraft among other equipment.

As part of the 'Disarm the Gallery' campaign mounted by CAAT and the Stop the Arms Fair coalition, thousands of people raised their concerns with the National Gallery in writing and through a series of creative interventions inside and outside the gallery.

CAAT campaigner Sarah Waldron said: 'the company was able to use the National Gallery's facilities and prestige to give the appearance of legitimacy to its work.'

CAAT pointed out that while the arts are suffering dramatic cuts in public funding, the government continues to subsidise arms exports with an estimated £700 million a year.


On 27 September, CAAT was awarded a Right Livelihood Award, the 'alternative Nobel Prize' for its 'innovative and effective campaigning against the arms trade.'

The award, which will be formally presented at the Swedish Parliament on 7 December, carries a cash prize of €50,000.

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation noted CAAT's role in challenging BAE Systems' multi-billion-pound arms deal with Saudia Arabia; restraining subsidies to arms companies through the Export Credits Guarantee Department; opposing arms fairs; opposing unethical sponsorships; and exposing the British government's hypocrisy during the 'Arab Spring'.