Their demand: to obtain an immediate halt to any new oil or gas project. Environmental activists from the Just Stop Oil movement threw tomato soup on the masterpiece on Friday, October 14 Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh, exhibited at the National Gallery in London, the activist group has announced.
According to images relayed by the press and published by the movement, two activists threw the contents of two cans of soup on the work, which is protected by glass, before gluing their hands to the wall. “Is art worth more than life? (…) The cost of living crisis and the climate crisis are caused by oil and gas”posted in the wake of the movement on his Twitter account. The value of these Sunflowers is estimated at over $84 million.
This action only slightly damaged the frame, and the 1888 painting – protected by glass – is intact. It was on display again in the late afternoon, the museum said.
This initiative is part of a marathon of actions planned throughout the month of October by Just Stop Oil, which claims spectacular methods and favors actions of civil disobedience.
To support five of their imprisoned comrades, members of the group also covered a rotating sign in front of Scotland Yard in London with orange paint and blocked traffic, some sticking to the road. Twenty-four people were arrested, police said.
The British government wants to “put an end to these nuisances”
The new Conservative government of Liz Truss, which has revived authorizations for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and lifted the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, is determined to toughen the crackdown on the environmental movement.
At the last Conservative Party convention, the Prime Minister castigated movements and associations such as Extinction Rebellion or Greenpeace, accusing them of being part of a “anti-growth coalition”with the Labor Party or even the anti-Brexit.
Interior Minister Suella Braverman has already promised to strengthen the powers of the police to “to put an end to these nuisances” in a forthcoming law on public order. “Whether you’re Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain or Extinction Rebellion, you cross the line when you break the law. This is why we will continue to put you behind bars”insisted M.me braveman.
But the threats do not discourage activists, many of whom have taken days off and come from far and wide to take part in civil disobedience actions in the capital. The proliferation of climatic disasters, the intensity and frequency of which are increasing due to global warming, such as the heat waves that are reaching the United Kingdom, have increased the anxiety and the sense of urgency among these activists.
Series of actions started in early October
The Sunflowers exhibited in the National Gallery were acquired by the museum in 1924. In total, Vincent Van Gogh created seven versions of the Sunflowers, five of which are exhibited in museums. One of them, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, said it kept a “keep an eye on developments” likely to affect its own security measures.
The Dutch specialist investigator Arthur Brand, nicknamed “the Indiana Jones of the art world”, condemned the action of Just Stop Oil. “There are hundreds of ways to draw attention to climate issues. It shouldn’t be one of them.”he estimated.
Members of Just Stop Oil evoke the suffragette movement, which, at the beginning of the XXe century, had attacked works of art to obtain the right to vote for women.
This new stunt by the group, which had already targeted works of art in the past, is part of a series of actions that began in early October in the British capital, during which it blocked roads in many times.