Peter Russell
Artwash (detail)

In the harsh economics of the new austerity, public funding cuts force museums and galleries to increasingly rely on corporate sponsorship. Enlightened funding makes a great contribution to the health of the arts, although, understandably, sponsors seek to make appropriate associations to enhance their public standing. Occasionally, at worst, a toxic brand might exploit the artistic coupling to cleanse a damaged identity. Hans Haacke made artworks of raw power skewering such examples, and I pay homage to him. The roles of cash-strapped directors in all cultural forms may easily be compromised by accepting the support of such as Shell and BP, or more noxious corporations such as Allied Technologies Corporation, sponsors of the Tate Gallery exhibition of George Stubbs in 1984-5.

Stubbs was the perfect vehicle for corporate image massage. He died long ago and painted in a historic and uncontentious manner, representing fettlesome horses tamed for an aristocratic and monied elite engaged in racing and hunting in a rural setting, far from urban problems. Yet Stubbs represents not just the power of feudal privilege, but, chillingly, the wild power of the big cats, with lions clawing the backs of terrified horses.

My work alternates Stubbs paintings with the BP logo and sponsorship debate, followed by Allied weaponry but not their corruption, in slide projection onto a gold frame. A final juxtaposition of the Hunting Prize against Hans Haacke leads back to the beginning. The space surrounding the frame intends a suggestion of affluence and fine things, despite some inconsistent jarring aspects.