Climate protesters endangering ‘irreplaceable’ art, say global museums


LONDON – From Claude Monet to Andy Warhol, the masterpieces of several of the world’s greatest artists have been targeted this year by protesters seeking to draw global attention to the climate change crisis. Now, art galleries are pushing back.

In a joint statement this week, representatives from nearly 100 galleries worldwide, including New York’s Guggenheim Museum, London’s British Museum and Paris’ Louvre Museum, have warned that such climate protests are putting the works at risk. priceless art.

“In recent weeks, there have been several attacks on works of art in international museum collections. The activists responsible for them 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 increasingly “frustrated” and “deeply shaken” by the endangerment of the art.

“Museums are places where people from a wide variety of backgrounds can participate 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 covered in protective glass, although some museums have reported minor damage.

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From breaking ‘The View’ to tomato soup: Climate protests are surprising

The protests have dotted the world in recent months.

In Australia, climate protesters scrawled blue graffiti on Warhol’s Campbell art in Canberra. The climate action group Stop Fossil Fuel Subsidies he wrote on Twitter, “The art was not damaged,” and encourage 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 back on display.

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

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

In response to a joint statement this week from museums, a spokesman for the UK climate action group Just Stop Oil told The Washington Post on Friday that “art and the public gallery is a contested place, it doesn’t exist and it doesn’t can exist outside the debate and the wider debates that take place in society.” The spokesperson added, “Ending new oil and gas is a demand that needs to be made inside and outside the gallery.”

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Just Stop Oil protesters made global headlines last month when they threw tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at London’s National Gallery but did not damage the 19th-century painting, which is estimated to be worth $84.2 million, which was covered with protective glass.

More activists stick to art. Their tactics are not new.

The high-profile stunt joins other climate protests in recent years that have sought to disrupt everyday 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 gain media attention but don’t always “work to change minds and hearts.”

Some in the public have credit the protesters as “heroes” and He said galleries were “missing the point” by not supporting them. Others, however, have called for more security in museums and supposed the acts of “vandalism.”

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Last week also announced a separate body, the Association of Directors of Art Museums of the United States, and statement in response to climate campaigners’ “attacks” on works of art, saying that “the events cannot be justified” regardless of their motivation. “Such protests are misdirected, and the end does not justify the means,” said the organisation.

The rare joint action by museums comes as world leaders, including President Biden, gather in Egypt at the annual United Nations climate change summit, known as COP27, to discuss solutions to the ongoing climate crisis .

When campaigners attacked Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’, they confirmed its power

Biden asked 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 it is unclear whether Congress will achieve anywhere near that amount.

Meanwhile, on Friday, a major study warned that nations are likely to burn through their remaining carbon budget in the next nine years if they do not significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution – making it almost impossible for nations to achieve the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming. to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Shannon Osaka contributed to this report.


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