UK climate activists glue themselves to masterpieces

9 Jul

As part of a campaign targeting museums and galleries in the UK, environmental activists from the group Just Stop Oil sprayed the words "no new oil" and glued themselves onto the frame of "The Last Supper" at the Royal Academy in London on Tuesday.


The 500 year-old painting, attributed to Giampietrino, is a full-scale copy of the famous work by Leonardo Da Vinci, who is thought to have been Giampietrino's master. It depicts the final meal of Jesus with his Apostles before his crucifixion, as told by the New Testament. The action is the fifth in a series of similar protests targeting famous artworks.

An 'apocalyptic' version of a 200-year-old masterpiece

Just a day before at London's National Gallery, climate protesters covered John Constable's "The Hay Wain" (1821) with a color printout showing the idyllic river landscape replaced by a paved road, dead trees, factory smokestacks and airplanes. The activists, who also glued themselves to the frame of the painting, described their reimagined version of the scene as an "apocalyptic vision of the future" reflecting "the climate collapse and what it will do to this landscape."

A security guard calls authorities as activists sit with their hands glued to the frame of the painting 'The Hay Wain' by English artist John Constable but covered in a mock 'undated' version including roads and aircraft. Activists covered John Constable's 'The Hay Wain' with a color printout before gluing their hands to the frame. "I'm here because our government plans to licence 40 new UK oil and gas projects in the next few years," said 23-year-old Hannah Hunt, one of the two activists, as reported by French news agency AFP.

Her co-campaigner, Eben Lazarus, 22, said they aim to draw attention to the "impact of our addiction to fossil fuels on our countryside." "The painting is an important part of our heritage," he added, "but it is not more important than the 3.5 billion men, women and children already in danger because of the climate crisis."

Part of a larger campaign targeting artworks

"The painting was removed from the wall to be examined by our conservation team," a spokeswoman from the gallery told the Museums Association. "'The Hay Wain' suffered minor damage to its frame and there was also some disruption to the surface of the varnish on the painting — both of which have now been successfully dealt with."

Just Stop Oil defines itself as a "coalition of groups working together to ensure the government commits to halting new fossil fuel licensing and production," as stated on the initiative's website. Over the past week, Just Stop Oil activists staged a series of similar protests in Glasgow, Manchester and London, with activists gluing themselves to valuable paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, William Turner and Horatio McCulloch.

In a statement, Just Stop Oil explained that they have been targeting art, as it is "part of our collective culture," adding, "We love our history and culture too much to just allow it all to be destroyed." "Supporters of Just Stop Oil will continue to peacefully disrupt whatever it takes until the government agrees to halt all new fossil fuel projects," the group also stated.

The UK's National Police Coordination Centre has warned museums and galleries to tighten security amid the series of protests. The security briefing said it is likely that Just Stop Oil will carry out further civil disobedience tactics in cultural institutions; the police authorities believe the actions will be "continuing daily." 


Edited by: Louisa Wright

Author Elizabeth Grenier

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