Home Art collection Climate activists attacking art ‘seriously underestimate’ works’ fragility, gallery directors warn | Art

Climate activists attacking art ‘seriously underestimate’ works’ fragility, gallery directors warn | Art


Climate activists targeting masterpieces around the world are not fully aware of the fragility of artworks, directors of nearly 100 galleries have warned, saying they are “deeply shaken” by the attacks.

This year, famous works of art have been attacked by protesters from various activist groups demanding action on the climate crisis. The incidents include a German environmental group throw mashed potatoes on a Claude Monet painting in a museum in Potsdam, activists from Just Stop Oil throw tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery in London, a group splashing pea soup on a Van Gogh masterpiece in Rome, Extinction Rebellion activists targeting a Picasso painting in Melbourne, and activists sticking to the works of Botticelli, Boccioni, Van Gogh and other Old Masters.

More recently, on Wednesday, two protesters from the group Stop Fossil Fuel Subsidies scrawled on Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

“In recent weeks, there have been several attacks on works of art in international museum collections. The activists responsible for them gravely underestimate the fragility of these irreplaceable objects, which must be preserved as part of our global cultural heritage,” the gallery and museum directors wrote in a joint statement posted online.

“As museum directors entrusted with the custody of these works, we were deeply shaken by their dangerous endangerment.

“Museums are places where people from very diverse backgrounds can engage in dialogue and therefore enable social discourse,” the statement continued. “In this sense, the fundamental tasks of the museum as an institution – to collect, research, share and preserve – are now more relevant than ever. We will continue to advocate for direct access to our cultural heritage. And we will maintain the museum as a free space for social communication.

The statement was co-signed by nearly 100 heads of prominent institutions, many of whom have previously been targeted by militants.

Signatories include officials of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York; the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery in London; the Uffizi Gallery and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Italy; the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Center Pompidou and the Musée national Picasso-Paris in France; and the Museo Nacional del Prado and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain.

Climate activists target Andy Warhol’s soup cans at Canberra art gallery – video

So far, most galleries have remained silent after the attacks, unwilling to draw attention to themselves or their security protocols. Following the defacement of Warhol’s work in Canberra, a National Gallery of Australia spokesperson said: “The National Gallery does not wish to promote these actions and has no further comment.”

None of the works targeted suffered any lasting damage as many are covered in glass. Climate activists apparently target the most famous works not to damage them, but to draw media attention to the lasting damage of the climate crisis.

During the attack on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in London, Just Stop Oil protesters shouted, ‘What’s worth more? Art or life? Is it worth more than the food? Worth more than justice? Are you more concerned about protecting a painting or protecting our planet and people?

Last Generation, the German environmental group behind the attack on Monet’s painting, echoed that sentiment in a post afterwards, asking: “Which is worth more, art or life?

The American organization that supports the Just Stop Oil protests, the Climate Emergency Fund, pledged protests would continue across Europe and the United States.

“More protests are coming, this is a rapidly growing movement and the next two weeks will hopefully be the most intense period of climate action yet,” said Margaret Klein Salamon, executive director of the Climate Emergency Fund. “So hang in there.”