BERLIN, June 1 (UPI) -- BP, embattled by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, faces a new foe: German artist Ruppe Koselleck paints with oil washed onto beaches across the globe and sells his paintings with an optimistic goal in mind -- to take over the European oil major.
Koselleck's Utopian project started in 2001, when he spent a summer holiday with his family on a North Sea beach in the Netherlands.
"My daughter came back from a swim with tar sticking to her feet," Koselleck, 44, told United Press International in a telephone interview from his "permanent takeover bureau" in Muenster, northwestern Germany. "When I peeled off the tar from her feet, I suddenly remembered that my dad had done the same with me. I searched for more at the beach and it didn't take long until I had a bucket full of tar."
On the way home, Koselleck stopped at a BP gas station to fill up his car and that may have been the company's bad luck. He soon found out about BP's drilling activities in the North Sea and decided to act.
"BP is cultivating this eco image, it even has a sun in its logo," he said. "I find that dishonest."
Using crude oil he found at North Sea beaches, he created works of art he sold for the equivalent of two BP shares per type of oil used, so the price for his art fluctuates with the BP share price. Half of a sale is used to support his family, the other half invested in BP stock. His motto: "You buy my art and I buy BP."
"I want to defeat them with their own waste," he said.
That should take him a while. Koselleck said he owns 1,493 BP shares -- of a total of nearly 19 billion outstanding.
The artist, a charismatic man with a boyish smile, knows that it's impossible to finish his project. However, the Deepwater Horizon spill in April 2010, the most devastating in U.S. history, only increased his determination to continue to raise awareness of the dangers of oil exploration.
Visiting the Gulf of Mexico region three months after the accident, he collected oil washed up at beaches in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
"The beaches looked clean at first glance but when you looked closer, oil was everywhere," Koselleck said.
When U.S. President Barack Obama and his daughter went for a public relations swim in the gulf on Aug. 15, Koselleck said he was collecting oil just 30 miles to the south.
"Obama that day said the beaches were clean but I knew that was not the case," he said. "I understand he wanted to protect the local economy but it's scary that the oil majors have so much power that even the president of the United States has to swim when they want it."
A few months ago, a German artists' community gave Koselleck a replica statue of Michelangelo's David as a present, a reminder that he was an underdog fighting a mighty opponent. Koselleck painted it black with crude oil from an Alabama beach. He has taken "Black David," as he calls the statue, to the North Sea where it stood, waves crashing against its base, like a silent ally to Koselleck, who was hunting for crude oil nearby.
His next trip, Koselleck said, might take him to places believed to be even more polluted than the Gulf of Mexico, for example Nigeria or Baku in Azerbaijan.
The Caspian Sea, Koselleck said he's been told, is so polluted that to create an oil painting, he simply needs to throw a canvas into the water and pull it out after a few minutes.
BP itself hasn't reacted to his art. In a quirky coincidence, however, a group of BP employees visited Koselleck's first exhibition on the takeover project during a company outing to Muenster.
"They took it in good humor," Koselleck said. "They all bought a postcard that read, 'Life is too short for the wrong job.'"