Climate protesters threw tomato soup on a version of Van Gogh’s famous painting “Sunflowers” at London’s National Gallery before gluing themselves to the wall below on Friday.
The art piece dates to 1889, one of seven versions made by the Dutch painter, and is worth an estimated $85 million.
The vandalism by the two protesters did not damage the painting, which is covered in glass, although there was “minor damage to the frame,” according to the BBC.
The vandalism comes after two weeks of protests across London by the group Just Stop Oil, a group to which both protesters belong. Other actions included, much like American protests, blocking roadways to tie up commuter traffic.
The group wants the British government to stop “all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.”
“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?”@JustStop_Oil’s activists explain their action pic.twitter.com/mGNZIO6RbK
— Damien Gayle (@damiengayle) October 14, 2022
Friday’s art protest was far from the first for Just Stop Oil. In late June and early July, activists from the group engaged in a series of five similar stunts. They glued themselves to the frame of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” at the Royal Academy and to the frame of Van Gogh’s “Peach Trees in Blossom” at London’s Courtauld Gallery.
Such stunt protests are not universally supported by climate change activists.
The direct action “alienates many people we need to bring into the fold. People who are natural allies in the climate battle but will draw negative associations with climate advocacy and activism from such acts,” climate scientist Michael Mann told the Associated Press.
A Scotland Yard spokesperson confirmed the pair of protesters had been arrested for their actions, saying, “Specialist officers have un-glued them and they have been taken into custody to a central London police station,” according to the New York Post.
The painting was cleaned and returned to its display Friday afternoon.