Environmental protesters threw tomato soup over Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” painting at London’s National Gallery on Friday, in the latest “direct action” stunt targeting artwork.
The gallery said the protesters caused “minor damage to the frame, but the painting is unharmed”.
Just Stop Oil wants to end the UK government’s involvement in oil and gas and has sparked a series of high-profile protests.
London’s Metropolitan Police said its officers had arrested two protesters from the group for criminal damage and grievances after they “threw a substance over a painting” in the gallery in Trafalgar Square and attacked themselves just after 11 a.m. (1000 GMT). pasted on the wall.
Police said they had dislodged the protesters and taken them to a central London police station.
The National Gallery said the two protesters “appeared to be glued to the wall next to Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers'” and threw a “red substance” at the painting. The room was cleared of visitors and the police called, it added.
A video posted to Twitter by environmental correspondent Damien Gayle of The Guardian newspaper and retweeted by the eco-activism group shows two women wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Just Stop Oil” wooing cans of soup at the iconic painting.
After sticking themselves to the wall, one of the activists yells, “Which is worth more, art or life?”
“Are you more concerned about protecting a painting or protecting 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 yelling “Security?” while soup drips from the frame onto the floor.
Just Stop Oil said in a statement that its activists threw two cans of Heinz Tomato Soup over the painting to demand the British 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 can be seen in this gallery, but our heritage is being destroyed by our government’s failure to act on climate and the cost of living,” the group said.
According to the activist group, the painting has an estimated value of $84.2 million.
The National Gallery says on its website that the signed 1888 painting was acquired by the gallery in 1924.
It is one of five versions of “Sunflowers” displayed to the public in museums and galleries around the world. Van Gogh made a total of seven.
‘Crossing a line’
The gallery called the works “one of Van Gogh’s most iconic and best-loved works”.
The attack came a week after British Home Secretary Suella Braverman issued a threat against direct action protesters who she said were using “guerrilla tactics” to bring “chaos and misery” to the public.
“Whether you’re Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain or Extinction Rebellion, you’re crossing a line when you break the law — and that’s why we’ll continue to put you behind bars,” she said.
Just Stop Oil has previously targeted several other famous paintings with glue attacks.
In June, two activists glued their hands to the frame of Van Gogh’s painting “Peach Trees in Blossom” in the Courtauld Gallery in London.
In July, supporters clung to the frame of British painter John Constable’s “The Hay Wain” in the National Gallery.
They first pasted over the canvas a “reimagined version” of the rural scene, depicting the landscape covered in pollution, riddled with wildfires and flown over by airplanes.
In the same month, they stuck to a full copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” at the Royal Academy in London.
In recent days, Just Stop Oil has held several protests to block highways.
Met Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said of the protests that he was “frustrated that so many officers are being taken away from addressing issues that matter most to communities.”
Activists destroy Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers in the National Gallery.
The vandalism or destruction of art is always an authoritarian act.
But more than that, it represents a rejection of civilization and the achievements of humanity.pic.twitter.com/8gLTjekvIt
— Andrew Doyle (@andrewdoyle_com) October 14, 2022
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)