Just Stop Oil activists throw soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

Just Stop Oil activists throw soup at Van Gogh's Sunflowers

Protesters then glue themselves to the wall beneath the painting at National Gallery in London.

Activists from Just Stop Oil have thrown tomato soup over Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery in London.

There were gasps, roars, and a shout of “Oh my gosh!” in room 43 of the gallery as two young supporters of the climate protest group threw the liquid over the painting, which is protected by glass, just after 11 am.

They removed jackets to reveal Just Stop Oil T-shirts before gluing themselves to the wall beneath the artwork, which is one of the gallery’s most important treasures.

“What is worth more, art or life?” said one of the activists, Phoebe Plummer, 21, from London. 20-year-old Anna Holland accompanied her from Newcastle. “Is it worth more than food? More than justice? Are you more concerned about protecting a painting or our planet and people?

“The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of the oil crisis, and fuel is unaffordable to millions of cold, hungry families. They can’t even afford to heat a tin of soup.”

National Gallery staff quickly cleared the room. The gallery has since confirmed the painting was not harmed, saying that after the protesters threw “what appears to be tomato soup” over the painting, “the room was cleared of visitors and police were called. Officers are now on the scene. There is minor damage to the frame but the painting is unharmed.”

For the past two weeks, the group has been staging sit-down protests on roads around central London, infuriating drivers and commuters. Still, Friday’s action appeared to be an escalation of its tactics.

The protest sparked mixed reactions and plenty of anger. Sophie Wright, 43, from Surrey, initially condemned the action but changed her mind when she learned the painting was unlikely to have been permanently damaged.

“I support the cause, and by the looks of it, they are considered protests, with a purpose of raising awareness and shocking [people],” she said. “So long as they don’t hurt or put people in danger, I support them.”

But a witness declined to give his name and said he could understand their cause but worried about targeting “a beautiful piece of art, which is the best of humanity.” He added: “They may be trying to get people to think about the issues, but all they end up getting people annoyed and angry.

“The typical unthinking individual who doesn’t think about the big issues of the planet is not the kind of person who walks around the National Gallery.”

Alienating people from their cause was a concern, said Alex De Koning, a Just Stop Oil spokesperson, who spoke to the Guardian outside the gallery after the room was cleared. “But this is not The X Factor,” he added. “We are not trying to make friends here, we are trying to make change, and unfortunately this is the way that change happens.”

The activists were arrested by Met police officers for criminal damage and aggravated trespass and taken into custody at a central London police station.

The canvas of the painting is protected with a glass screen, a factor Just Stop Oil said they had taken into account.

The picture is one of the most famous images in the world, painted by Van Gogh when he lived in the south of France. Like so much of the Dutch artist’s work, the image celebrates the beauty of ordinary everyday objects – a flower, a chair, a shoe. In 1987, one of the series was sold for $39m.


Recommended For You

About the Author: Janice

Janice is a full-time mom who likes to write on a range of topics in her spare time. She specializes in the Home, Garden, and Recycling topics. Janice is our Lifestyle and positive vibe expert. She keeps the office running.
[ format) OR br (in
fromat) OR si (single line) /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// include("mmomagelinks.php"); /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// ?>]