People who want to Just Stop Oil throw soup at Van Gogh sunflowers. Just Stop Oil activists have thrown tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers at London’s National Gallery.
In room 43 of the gallery, there were gasps, roars, and an “Oh my gosh!” when two young members of the climate protest group threw the liquid over the painting, which was protected by glass.
They took off their jackets to show Just Stop Oil T-shirts, then stuck themselves to the wall under one of the most important pieces of art in the gallery.
“What’s more important, art or life?” asked Phoebe Plummer, a 21-year-old activist from London. She was with Anna Holland, from Newcastle, who is 20 years old. “Does it have more value than food? More than a fair trial? Do you care more about keeping a painting safe or keeping our planet and people safe?
“The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of the oil crisis. Millions of families who are cold and hungry can’t buy fuel because it’s too expensive. They don’t have enough money to even heat up a can of soup.”
The staff at the National Gallery quickly cleaned up the room. Since then, the gallery has said in a statement that the painting was not damaged. It said that after the protesters threw “what appears to be tomato soup” on the painting, “the room was cleared of visitors, and police were called.” The police have now arrived. There is some minor damage to the frame but the painting is unharmed.”
The group has been holding sit-down protests on roads around central London for the past two weeks, which has angered drivers and commuters. However, Friday’s action seemed to be a step up in the group’s tactics.
People had different feelings about the protest and a lot of anger. Sophie Wright, who is 43 and from Surrey, was angry at first, but she changed her mind when she found out that the painting probably wasn’t permanently damaged.
“I believe in the cause, and from what I can tell, these are protests meant to raise awareness and shock people,” she said. “So long as they don’t hurt people or put people in danger, then I support them.”
But a witness who didn’t want to give his name said he could see why they were doing it, but he was worried about them going after “a beautiful piece of art that represents the best of humanity.” He added: “They may be trying to get people to think about the issues but all they end up doing is getting people really annoyed and angry.
Alex De Koning, a spokesperson for Just Stop Oil, told the Guardian that they didn’t want to turn people away from their cause. He said this as he stood outside the gallery after the room had been cleared. He added, “But this is not The X Factor.” “We’re not trying to make friends here, we’re trying to make a change, and unfortunately this is how change happens.”
After that, Met police officers arrested the activists for criminal damage and aggravated trespass and took them to a police station in the center of London.
The painting’s canvas is protected by a glass screen, which is something Just Stop Oil said they thought about.
Van Gogh painted the picture when he was living in the south of France. It is one of the most well-known pictures in the world. The picture, like a lot of the Dutch artist’s other work, shows how beautiful simple things like flowers, chairs, and shoes can be. In 1987, $39 million was paid for one of the sets.
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