Photo : Children show off their entries in Dublin in May



THE Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) has ended its association with a major children’s art competition sponsored by Texaco 

Colin Coyle

First published: Sunday July 03 2022, 12.01am, The Sunday Times

The Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma) has ended its involvement with a children’s art contest sponsored by Texaco.

Environmental activists had lobbied the museum saying the competition, now in its 68th year, was an attempt by the oil company to “artwash” its reputation.

Imma, which provided a judge last year and has hosted an awards event, said all of its collaborations were “evaluated and reviewed to ensure they align with our strategic direction and priorities”. It said its involvement with Texaco had come “to a natural end”.

Valero Energy, the US oil group that owns Texaco service stations in Ireland, did not respond to an inquiry by The Sunday Times.

Three years ago An Taisce called for a boycott of the competition, and John Gibbons, the spokesman for the heritage body’s climate change committee, said Texaco’s continued sponsorship in an age of global warming was “an unacceptable and exploitative travesty”.

“The Texaco children’s art competition is an increasingly thin PR smoke-screen for an industry that has shown reckless disregard for the future safety and wellbeing of the very children it invites to take part in its annual competition,” Gibbons said.

Tom Roche, the founder of Just Forests, an environmental organisation in Offaly, also lobbied against state involvement in the competition, which drew almost 20,000 entries last year.

Category winner Kerri Doherty, 13


Roche told the Offaly Express that Annie Fletcher, the director of Imma, had agreed with him that the museum’s involvement with the competition was no longer aligned with its approach to sustainability. He claimed that this had prompted Imma to withdraw.

 Last year Seán Kissane, an exhibitions curator at Imma, acted as one of the art competition’s four judges.

Roche said this weekend that he had been campaigning against Texaco’s sponsorship since 1996 following claims that the company had dumped toxic water into pits in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador between 1964 and 1992.

Environmentalists said pollution from the Lago Agrio oilfield contaminated water used by locals for fishing, bathing and drinking. In 2011 the Ecuadorean Supreme Court ruled Chevron, which has owned the Texaco brand since 2001, should pay $9.5 billion (€9.1 billion) in compensation. The company declined to pay, claiming the court’s decision was “illegitimate and inapplicable”, and its stance was supprted by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2018.

Tom Roche is no fan of the event


Roche said Texaco was also “sportswashing” with its Texaco Support for Sport initiative, a €130,000-a-year fund for Irish sport. He called on Donncha O’Callaghan, a retired rugby player who is an ambassador for the scheme, to dissociate himself from the oil company.

Roche has also lobbied the Highlanes Gallery in Drogheda, Co Louth, and the Royal Ulster Academy in Belfast to end their involvement with the children’s art contest. Both have previously hosted exhibitions of the winning entries. It is understood Aoife Ruane, the director of the Highlanes Gallery, will no longer act as a judge, while the Drogheda institution is believed to be reviewing its links.

The Royal Ulster Academy of Arts told Roche that it “simply allowed its ground-floor premises to be used” for the children’s art show. It insisted it was “not sponsoring, promoting or benefiting financially in any way”.

Roche said he did not want the contest to reach its 70th year. “It’s in its 68th year now and my target is to end Texaco’s association in the next two years. I’ve been campaigning for over 20 years now and I’m finally getting support when I ask people why a company with such a poor environmental and human rights record is allowed to sponsor a national children’s art competition.”

The annual competition has had several notable winners, including the artists Robert Ballagh, Dorothy Cross and Graham Knuttel, the fashion designer Paul Costelloe, the broadcaster Thelma Mansfield, the communications adviser Terry Prone and the former government minister Ruairi Quinn.


SOURCE: The Sunday Times