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Spraying Paint, Throwing Soup, Climbing Bridges... What Climate Change Activists Have Been Doing To Get Your Attention

Since May 29, 2022, protesters from environmental activist groups such as Just Stop Oil have either attached themselves to or flung substances on celebrated masterpieces in prestigious museums since mid-2022 to shock people the world over to end new gas and oil extraction projects.

A video shows climate activists spraying orange paint from a fire extinguisher.
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Six members of the environmental activist group Just Stop Oil used fire extinguishers to spray orange paints onto the Bank of England, the Home Office, the MI5 building, and the headquarters of News Corp at London Bridge. They chose the four key buildings, claiming that they “were chosen to represent the four pillars that support and maintain the power of the fossil fuel economy — government, security, finance, and media.”

“We are not prepared to stand by and watch while everything we love is destroyed, while vulnerable people go hungry, and fossil fuel companies and the rich profit from our misery. The era of fossil fuels should be long gone, but the creeping tentacles of fossil fuel interests continue to corrupt our politics, government, and media as they have for decades,” a Just Stop Oil spokesperson said. 

After a series of wildfires and droughts in Europe, climate change activists from the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany, have either attached themselves to or flung substances on celebrated masterpieces in prestigious museums since mid-2022 to shock people the world over to end new gas and oil extraction projects. Doing this, they say, will mitigate the looming climate crisis we have found ourselves in.

The frequency of such protests is increasing as the United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP27 fast approaches, scheduled to be held at Sharm al-sheik in Egypt between November 6-18.

Here’s a list of other instances since May 29, 2022, when climate change activists have sprung up in busy art spaces to demonstrate their point. 

  • October 28: Two Just Stop Oil activists spray painted the Rolex watch showroom in Knightsbridge, London, at 8.30 am today with orange paint from a fire extinguisher over the premises.
  • October 27: A member of Just Stop Oil superglued his head to Johannes Vermeer’s beloved masterpiece Girl With a Pearl Earring, which is displayed behind glass at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague. Another man pours tomato soup on the first man’s head.
  • October 23: Letzte Generation activists threw mashed potatoes at French Impressionist Claude Monet’s Grainstacks painting in the Barberini Museum in Potsdam, Germany. The painting’s historic frame, though protected by a glass pane, was badly damaged and the museum was shut down till October 30 to restore the work.
  • October 18: Protesters from the Just Stop Oil coalition climbed the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in Dartford. The bridge was closed, causing two hours of delay and nearly 10 km-long traffic jams during the Monday rush hour.
  • October 16: Chloe Thomas, a 19-year-old pregnant girl, along with other Just Stop Oil campaigners, blocked Park Lane and painted an Aston Martin showroom orange with spray paint.
  • October 14: Just Stop Oil threw tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery, London. The two protesters then glued themselves to the museum’s wall, and asked the question, “What is worth more, art or life?” 
  • October 8: Two Australian activists from Extinction Rebellion stole the spotlight from Europe in all-black outfits, gluing their hands to Picasso’s Massacre in Korea at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and unfolding a banner that read “CLIMATE CHAOS = WAR + FAMINE” on the floor. Perspex glazing protected the painting from damage. 
  • August 24: Two Letzte Generation members glued their hands to the painting, Thunderscape With Pyramus and Thisbe, by Nicolas Poussin at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.
  • August 23: Two German climate activists from Letzte Generation (Last Generation) affixed themselves to the frame of Raphael's Sistine Madonna in the Old Masters Picture Gallery, Dresden.
  • August 18: Protesters from the action group Ultima Generazione glued themselves to Laocoön and His Sons at the Vatican Museum in Rome.
  • July 30: Four Ultima Generazione activists glued themselves to the futurist sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space at the Museo del Novecento, Milan. They even consulted restorers who advised them to use a suitable adhesive and targeted its plinth specifically to ensure the sculpture’s safety.
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  • July 22: Ultima Generazione activists glue their hands to the glass covering Sandro Botticelli's Primavera at Uffizi in Florence, Italy. 
  • July 1: UK activists glued themselves to J.M.W. Turner’s 1809 romantic painting, Tomson’s Aeolian Harp at the Manchester Art Gallery. The painting portrays a rural London landscape encircled by the Thames, which climate experts say could experience regular flooding by 2030. The vandals also spray-painted the words ‘no new oil’ on the floor.
  • June 30: Louis McKechnie, 21, from Dorset and Emily Brocklebank, 24, from Leeds took a bottle of glue to an upper floor of the Courtauld Gallery in the British capital and adhered their palms to the frame of Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 landscape, Peach Trees in Blossom.
  • May 29: A man sitting in a wheelchair maneuvered his way to Leonardo da Vinci’s La Gioconda (the Mona Lisa), first attempting to break the glass before finally deciding to smear cake all over it. A sheet of bulletproof glass installed permanently in front of the iconic work prevented any damage to the artwork.
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