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It is always reassuring when a tobacco company’s PR stunt goes wrong, especially when it is panned by someone who is supposed to be basking in the warmth of its corporate generosity. A recent case of biting the hand that feeds you was seen at the Old Warehouse gallery in London a couple of months ago. The brown stained hand holding the money belonged to British American Tobacco (BAT), which despite new restrictions on tobacco sponsorship of sports and cultural events apparently sponsored an exhibition of new artists, aptly named “We love to kill what we love”.
The ungrateful beneficiary was a young artist called Simon Tyszko. He was so appalled at the apparently covert involvement of the tobacco company that he interspersed his video installation with some very down to earth anti-tobacco messages, revealing BAT’s involvement and what he thought about it to all who saw his work. BAT hastily withdrew. It must be a nasty shock for a company like BAT, when a gifted person with talent that it wants to exploit for its own cynical ends turns out also to have a conscience and a brain.