Climate activists throw soup on van Gogh painting

i24NEWS - AFP

4 min read
Environmental activists throw soup at a Van Gogh painting on display at the National Gallery in London, United Kingdom, October 14, 2022.
Handout / Just Stop Oil / AFPEnvironmental activists throw soup at a Van Gogh painting on display at the National Gallery in London, United Kingdom, October 14, 2022.

London's National Gallery said protesters caused 'minor damage to the frame but the painting is unharmed'

Environmental protesters threw tomato soup over Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" painting at the London's National Gallery on Friday, in the latest "direct-action" stunt targeting works of art.

The gallery said the protesters caused "minor damage to the frame but the painting is unharmed."

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Protest group Just Stop Oil aims to end UK government approval for exploring, developing and producing fossil fuels, and has mounted a series of high-profile protests.

London's Metropolitan Police said its officers arrested two protesters from the group for criminal damage and aggravated trespass after they "threw a substance over a painting" at the gallery on Trafalgar Square and glued themselves to a wall just after 11 am (1000 GMT).

Police said they had unglued the protesters and taken them to a central London police station.

The National Gallery said the two protesters "appeared to glue themselves to the wall adjacent to Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers'" and threw a "red substance" at the painting. The room was cleared of visitors and police were called, it added.

A video posted on Twitter by the Guardian newspaper's environment correspondent Damien Gayle and retweeted by the eco-activism group shows two women wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan "Just Stop Oil" lobbing cans of soup at the iconic painting.

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After glueing themselves to the wall, one of the activists shouts: "What is worth more, art or life?"

"Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?" she asks.

In the video, someone can be heard yelling "oh my God" as the soup hits the canvas and another person shouts "Security!" while soup drips from the frame onto the floor.

Just Stop Oil said in a statement its activists threw two cans of Heinz Tomato soup over the painting to demand the UK government halt all new oil and gas projects.

It later tweeted that the protest's message was "Choose life over art".

"Human creativity and brilliance is on show in this gallery, yet our heritage is being destroyed by our government's failure to act on the climate and cost of living crisis," the group said.

The activist group said the painting has an estimated value of $84.2 million.

A video was also posted to the group's Twitter account on Friday showing an activist spraying yellow paint on the iconic "New Scotland Yard" revolving sign in front of the Metropolitan Police headquarters in London.

The woman, named by the group as Lora Johnson, said in the video of the incident while being arrested that she did it to bring attention to Just Stop Oil activists in prison, specifically mentioning Joshua Smith.

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