Climate change activists vandalize paintings

By Farah Bassyouni Oct 28, 2022

On Sunday, Oct. 23, German activists threw mashed potatoes at Claude Monet’s $110 million “Les Meules” painting in an attempt to call attention to climate change. The vandalization occurred at Barberini Museum in Potsdam, Germany. The activists also glued their hands to the wall and made a statement about the climate crisis. 

“People are starving, people are freezing, people are dying. We are in a climate catastrophe,” one of the protesters said in a viral video. 

The protesters are a part of the environmental organization Letzte Generation. The organization tweeted “We make this #Monet the stage and the public the audience. If it takes a painting – with #MashedPotatoes or #TomatoSoup thrown at it – to make society remember that the fossil fuel course is killing us all: Then we’ll give you #MashedPotatoes on a painting!” and posted a video of the incident, which now has 19.3 million views. 

The museum confirmed the painting was behind glass and was not harmed by the potatoes, but the activists still received harsh criticism from social media. On Friday, Oct. 17, two fossil fuel protestors threw a can of soup on Van Gogh’s $85 million painting, “Sunflowers,” at the National Gallery in London. They also glued their hands to the wall and were arrested for “criminal damage and aggravated trespass”, according to museum officials.

In May, another viral incident occurred at the Louvre Museum in Paris where a man disguised himself as an old woman in a wheelchair and then threw cake at the “Mona Lisa.” 

“Art has a lot of power, and all the great artists in the past were radical and forward thinking, and yet that’s not being addressed in the same way in the climate crisis,” said a Just Stop Oil spokesperson to EuroNews. Just Stop Oil is another organization devoted to eliminating the use of fossil fuels.

 When asked if anything was “off-limits”, the spokesperson said “Of course it is. We are a non-violent movement. We’re peaceful protestors.”

The spokesperson also stated that many climate activists are students, some of whom are even pursuing their PhDs, and have set aside their studies in order to protest. 

But, these incidents have stirred global conversation on whether the actions are beneficial to climate change activism. 

“The fight against the climate crisis is not strengthened by attacks on famous paintings,” Brandenburg Green Party Leader Ursula Nonnemacher posted on Twitter.

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