Just Stop Oil activists follow suffragettes tactic amid charges filed
Charges of property damage are being filed against a protestor after they followed the same tactic and glued themselves to the frame of the Cranach painting.
Almost 12 world-famous artworks were targeted by climate activists groups pertaining to the Just Stop Oil campaign as protestors throw food and liquid at the paintings and glue themselves to them, although no permanent damage to them has occurred.
Just Stop Oil spokesperson Alex De Koning stated in an interview with Sky News that the example they lead by is that of the suffragettes who “violently slashed paintings in order to get their messages across", adding: “If things need to escalate then we’re going to take inspiration from past successful movements and we’re going to do everything we can,”
He said: “If that’s unfortunately what it needs to come to, then that’s unfortunately what it needs to come to.” The incident he is referring to goes back to 1914 when suffragette Mary Richardson walked into London’s National Gallery and slashed Diego Velazquez’s 17th-century painting The Rokeby Venus in protest against the arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst.
“I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the government for destroying Mrs. Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history,” Richardson stated at the time. “Justice is an element of beauty as much as color and outline on canvas.”
Beginning in June, Just Stop Oil members glued themselves to four paintings in museums across the UK - one of them being van Gogh’s 1889 landscape, Peach Trees in Blossom. Soup was thrown at another van Gogh, The Sower (1888), by activists from Italy’s Ultima Generazione, and two protestors from Germany’s Letzte Generation group threw mashed potatoes at Claude Monet’s Haystacks (1890).
Are the tactics effective?
During an October panel about social consciousness in museums, Adam Weinberg, the director of the Whitney Museum of Art, expressed: “It’s people putting themselves on a stage in order to bring attention to something, but you have to ask, does this really change anything,”
92 signatories from cultural institutions released a public letter last month decried actions taken by the activists as they “severely underestimate the fragility of these irreplaceable objects, which must be preserved as part of our world cultural heritage,” The letter continued: “As museum directors entrusted with the care of these works, we have been deeply shaken by their risky endangerment.”
Charges of property damage were filed on Friday against a protestor after they followed the same tactic and glued themselves to the frame of the Cranach painting The Calm on the Run to Egypt at Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie.
Another incident occurred last month in Belgium whereby two protestors were given a two-month sentence for one of them gluing their hand to the wall next to Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, and the other attempted to glue his head to the painting.
The Guardian reported that the public prosecutor asked for four months in prison with two months suspended, clarifying in a hearing, “An artwork hanging there for all of us to enjoy has been smeared by defendants who felt their message took precedence over everything else.”