Climate Activists Splatter Soup on Van Gogh Painting, Raise Protest Profile and Controversy

Oct 17, 2022

Thought Question: Do you think it is okay to break the law if it is to spread awareness on an important global issue? Why or why not?

Two climate protesters face criminal damage charges. They were video recorded dumping tomato soup on a famous painting at London's National Gallery. Their target? Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” 

The painting was covered in glass. So, it wasn't harmed.

The suspects, aged 20 and 21, are members of a group called “Just Stop Oil.” The group has put together protests across the UK. It focuses on climate causes. They've tried to stop the British government from giving out new licenses for gas and oil exploration in the North Sea. It’s also the latest in a pattern of high profile environmentalist attacks on art across the world.

“What is worth more, art or life?” one protester shouted. She and her alleged partner were also recorded gluing their hands to the wall where the painting hung. 

In July, in the same gallery, members of the same group vandalized another painting. That one was painted by John Constable. It's 200 years old. The group pasted an image over it. The image was an apocalyptic version of the painting. Weeks later, protesters in Italy did something similar. They are part of a group called Ultima Generazione. The protesters glued their hands to a Sandro Botticelli painting in Florence. 

The actions have spread the protesters’ message. A video of the Friday incident was uploaded to YouTube. It has been viewed more than 13 million times. But some climate activists argue these kinds of protests don't work.

One climate scientist told The Associated Press (AP) he worries an act of vandalism in the name of saving the planet “alienates many people we need to bring into the fold.” 

Photo from Reuters.

The fact mentioned in the story that the Van Gogh painting was covered in glass and unharmed is an example of _______. (Common Core RI.5.2; RI.6.2)
a. a main idea
b. a supporting detail
c. a statistic
d. a summary
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