Climate Protesters are Taking it All Out on Art

First, it was Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” with tomato soup. Next, it was Monet’s “Les Meules” with mashed potatoes. Then, a Madame Tussauds figure of King Charles III took the cake, quite literally.

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Photoshop By Nadia Razzaq

Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” cover Monet’s “Les Meules,” leaving Munch’s “The Scream” in shock. The photoshopped piece comments on the current state of climate protests.

It’s rebellious, it’s striking and, most notable of all, it’s created one runny mess. 

On Oct. 23, two climate change protesters from the organization Zetzte “Last” Generation launched a jar of watered-down mashed potatoes onto Monet’s “Les Meules” at Potsdam’s Barberini Museum. 

Just nine days prior, Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” was covered in tomato soup by Just Stop Oil – an organization devoted to halting fossil fuels. According to museum officials, no permanent damage was done to either painting due to the protective glass overlaid; yet, the incidents beg the question as to whether these protests are any means to a solution.

Mirjam Herrmann, one of two activists at the Barberini Museum on Sunday, glued her hand to the wall alongside her accomplice after hurling mashed potatoes at “Les Meules.” Herrmann passionately asserted her discontent with climate change denial at the protest. 

Climate protesters kneel below Monet’s “Les Meules” after throwing a jar of mashed potatoes onto it. The group protested out of discontent for fossil fuel extraction – a primary source of greenhouse gases. (Photo From The Boston Globe)

We are in a climate catastrophe. And all you are afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a painting. You know what I’m afraid of? I’m afraid because science tells us that we won’t be able to feed our families in 2050.” 

Herrmann is far from alone in this fight. The war on climate change has been going on long before the food fights that continue to unfold in museums.

After gaining recognition in August 2018, the empowering voice of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg ignited climate strikes around the globe. For instance, the Fridays for Future movement was grown from Thunberg’s voice, providing an opportunity for concerned youth to organize and call on urgent climate action.  

“I have learned you are never too small to make a difference,” Thunberg said at the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP24). 

Now, there is more urgency for action than ever before as scientists reveal startling discoveries. United Nations (UN) News is troubled by the projected pathway for global warming, finding that the temperature may more than double the 1.5-degree limit. This statistic is widely attributable to human activity, to greenhouse gas emissions. 

Environmental Club president Dahlia Nichols provides insight into recent protests. Nichols believes the cause to be more than worthy, however, the message may be lost in translation. 

“I think it’s great to protest peacefully for climate change,” Nichols said. “I think it’s kind of weird though when you do it with something that’s unrelated to it, even though it does bring up the topic of change. Nonetheless, it brought up the topic and made people more aware so the end product is good.” 

Just Stop Oil protesters speak to onlookers after smashing a chocolate cake onto the face of King Charles III’s waxwork. Just Stop Oil has led a variety of protests similar to this one, like the soup thrown onto Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in London. (Photo From CNN)

The rebellion doesn’t end with paintings. On Oct. 24, Just Stop Oil smashed a chocolate cake onto King Charles III’s waxwork at Madame Tussauds in London. Smearing the cake into the face of the British monarch, two supporters urged onlookers to join the movement as it is “time for action.” As a result, four people were arrested following the occurrence for criminal damage. 

The string of climate activism by the destruction of art is ongoing, seemingly occurring more so with each passing day. Former AP Art History student and senior Erin Yoon aligns with the cause, but worries about the scrutiny these actions are garnering. 

“I think that it’s an effective way of getting attention to this issue but it isn’t positive attention,” Yoon said. “It just creates more outrage towards the protesters and is just bringing this negative attention towards the protesters for a positive cause.” 

The cycle prevails; most protesters are outraged by onlookers, while most onlookers are outraged by protesters. Last Generation in a press release leaves adversaries with one question for consideration:

 “What is more valuable, life or art?”