Climate protesters endangering ‘irreplaceable’ art, say global museums


LONDON — From Claude Monet to Andy Warhol, many of the world’s greatest artists have had their masterpieces targeted this year by protesters seeking to draw global attention to the urgency of climate change. Now the art galleries are pushing back.

In a joint statement this week, representatives from nearly 100 galleries around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the British Museum in London and the Louvre Museum in Paris, warned that such climate manifestations endanger priceless works of art.

“In recent weeks, there have been several attacks on works of art in international museum collections. The activists responsible for them seriously underestimate the fragility of these irreplaceable objects, which must be preserved as part of our global cultural heritage,” they said.

The group of 92 representatives of the International Council of Museums said museum directors were growing “frustrated” and had been “deeply shaken” by the endangerment of art.

“Museums are places where people from very diverse backgrounds can engage in dialogue and therefore enable social discourse,” the statement added. “We will continue to advocate for direct access to our cultural heritage. And we will maintain the museum as a free space for social communication.

The gallery protests have so far caused no permanent damage to the iconic pieces, which are mostly encased in protective glass, although some museums have reported minor damage.

From ‘The View’ crash to tomato soup: Climate protests are getting weird

Protests have dotted the globe in recent months.

In Australia, climate protesters scrawled blue graffiti on the art of Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup in Canberra. The climate action group Stop Fossil Fuel Subsidies wrote on Twitter, “The art was not damaged” and urged the Australian government to reduce its carbon emissions.

Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’, a 17th-century masterpiece, was targeted in the Netherlands last month but is on display again.

In Italy, climate protesters glued themselves to Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli “Primavera” at the Uffizi museum in Florence, while in Germany, protesters from the group Last Generation doused Monet’s “Les Meules” with mashed potatoes as they criticized the government’s fossil fuel extraction.

The groups have advanced similar arguments to justify their actions. The Uffizi protesters, for example, declared that “if the climate collapses, all of civilization as we know it will collapse. There will be no more tourism, no more museums, no more art.

In response to this week’s museums’ coordinated statement, a spokesperson for the UK-based climate action group Just Stop Oil told The Washington Post on Friday that “art and the public gallery are a place disputed, it does not and cannot exist outside of the broader debate and arguments that take place in society. The spokesperson added: “Stopping new oil and gas is a demand that must be made both inside and outside the gallery”.

Just Stop Oil protesters made global headlines last month when they threw tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ at the National Gallery in London, but did not damage the painting 19th century, estimated at $84.2 million, which was encased in protective glass.

More and more activists are getting attached to art. Their tactics are not new.

The high-profile stunts align with other climate protests in recent years that have sought to disrupt daily life in increasingly unexpected ways.

Dana Fisher, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland who studies protest movements, previously told the Post that such “tactical innovations” and new strategies get media attention but don’t “always work to change people’s lives.” minds and hearts”.

Some in the audience have greeted the demonstrators as “heroes” and said galleries “miss the mark” by not supporting them. Others, however, called for increased security in museums and judge acts of “vandalism”.

A separate body, the US-based Association of Art Museum Directors, also released a statement in response to climate activists’ “attacks” on the artwork, stating that the incidents “cannot be justified” regardless of the motivation. “Such protests are misdirected and the end does not justify the means,” the organization said.

The rare joint action by museums comes as world leaders, including President Biden, gather in Egypt at the annual UN climate change summit, known as COP27, to discuss solutions to the climate emergency. In progress.

When Activists Attacked Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’, They Asserted His Power

Biden called for more than $11 billion to help developing countries adapt to the devastating effects of climate change and build greener economies in his $5.8 trillion budget plan released in March, but no unclear if Congress will provide anywhere near that amount.

Meanwhile, on Friday, a major study warned that nations would likely burn through their remaining carbon budget over the next nine years if they did not significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution – making it virtually impossible for nations to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Shannon Osaka contributed to this report.

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