Recent climate protests at art galleries across Europe have made international headlines for targeting centuries-old art pieces. From Picasso to Van Gogh, from Mona Lisa To Johannes Vermeer’s famous piece – Girl with a Pearl Earring, none was safe from the angry climate protestors. Although none of the art has been damaged the protesters are certainly garnering global attention.
So what is going on? Who is behind the protests, and what do they want?
Which Artworks Have Been The Target Of Protests?
1- Girl With a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer
Two men in ‘Just Stop Oil’ shirts approached Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague. One protestor started glueing his shaved head to the painting’s protected area, while another protestor had tomato soup dumped over his head. They questioned the visitors by asking them how they felt when something beautiful was being destroyed right before their eyes. Onlookers reprimanded the pair, shaming them for their acts. “Where is that feeling when you see the planet being destroyed?” the vocal protester pressed.
2 – Sunflowers By Van Gogh
Two ‘Just Stop Oil’ activists – Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland shocked the tourists at London’s National Gallery when they threw cans of tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s Fifteen Sunflowers at close range.
3 – Primavera by Botticelli
‘Ultima Generazione’ sparked their first art uproar when two protestors glued their palms to the glass protecting Botticelli’s Primavera and displayed their signature banner which displayed the question “is it possible to see a spring as beautiful as this today?”
4 – Mona Lisa
A man wearing a black wig and lipstick visited the Louvre in a wheelchair (based on some reports he tried to disguise himself as an old woman) on Sunday, May 29. According to The New York Times, the Louvre stated that the man acted disabled so he could get close to the painting. While viewing the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting in front of a multitude of guests, he suddenly got up from the wheelchair, crossed the barricade that keeps visitors about 15 feet from the painting, pulled out some cake, threw it right at the painting, and started smearing the frosting along the glass.
What Do These Protestors Want?
Some of the activists, from a group called ‘Last Generation’, have said that these protests are about getting a conversation going about climate change. Meanwhile, ‘Just Stop Oil’, urge the public to ponder “What is worth more, art or life?”. But that’s not all. ‘Last Generation’ has demanded to reduce emissions in ways that are practical. For example, they have suggested lowering the speed limit on German Highways from 130 to 100 km per hour. (Source: LA Times)
Why Art & Why These Artworks In Particular?
ABC Radio National recently interviewed climate protestors Phobe Plummer and Anna Holland about targeting valuable art for protest. To which they replied that this is their way of drawing attention to their grievances. They want to keep a nonviolent approach until the said government halts all fossil fuel licenses.
Does Taking Matters Upon Ourselves Mean Resorting To The Destruction Of Heritage?
While protesting for climate change is an essential part of today, destroying things that hold great value to today’s modern world – the things which give us an insight into the history of those that existed before us, is not the right way. Wasting food as others around us starve makes this sound a bit hypocritical when you pose the question of whether life is more important or art. Because if you believe life is more important than art, then are you actually practising what you preach? Furthermore, these protests also form a bridge between art seekers as museums are likely to become less accessible in the future for the general public.
There’s no denying that due to the state of climate emergency the world hangs by a few threads and each of us must take it upon ourselves to bind those threads together. However, does taking matters upon ourselves mean resorting to the destruction of heritage? Do you agree with the way these protestors are bringing attention to climate change? Share your opinions with us in the comments below.