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Matt Kenyon: Oil Company “Nationalizes” Artwork Critical of Oil Industry

Supermajor before after
Supermajor, before (left) and after (right).

Stamps Associate Professor Matt Kenyon talks to We Make Money Not Art about his reaction to the Petrosains Science Centre altering the content of his oil-industry critique Supermajor at a current exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

Supermajor is a rack of small vintage oil barrels bearing the logos of some of the biggest publicly owned oil companies (aka the supermajors): Exxon, Shell, BP, and Mobil. Oil seems to leak from one of the cans, flowing out in a seemingly never-ending trickle and cascading onto a golden-brown pool. However, thanks to a specialized lighting system and a special system of pumps, the oil appears to be flowing upwards, defying gravity.

Although the work is quite clearly a critique of the oil industry and the perception that oil, gas and other resources are infinite, the local gallery staff secretly changed the Exxon, Shell, BP, and Mobil oil labels of the installation to Petronas labels. Overnight and without the artist’s permission or even knowledge.

Oil company nationalizes artwork critical of the oil industry | we make money not art