An unnecessary crime or cantastic headline-grabbing visuals?
The climate activists who threw soup over Vincent Van Gogh’s famous “Sunflowers” painting on Saturday (October 15) appeared in a London court on charges of criminal damages this week.
The pair lobbed a can of (tomato?) soup at the artwork, then glued themselves to the gallery wall before being removed and taken into custody, according to the London Metropolitan Police.
The two women, ages 20 and 21, who are part of campaign group Just Stop Oil, pleaded not guilty at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court during two brief hearings.
Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ painting was vandalized with tomato soup by two anti-fossil fuel protestors in London.
The protestors then glued themselves to the wall beneath the painting.
As for damages, authorities say the painting is “unharmed.” pic.twitter.com/jqDNS939EB
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) October 14, 2022
District judge Tan Irkam released the women on bail on condition that they don’t have paint or adhesive substances on them in a public place.
As for the painting itself, the iconic piece was covered by glass, meaning the instillation was able to be cleaned easily and returned to the National Gallery that same day.
“There is some minor damage to the frame but the painting is unharmed,” the spokesperson told CNBC.
Just Stop Oil has been protesting in London for the past two weeks “in response to the government’s inaction on both the cost-of-living crisis and the climate crisis”, says a press release from the organisation.
The “soup” action was met by a mixed response online, with many folk outraged on the assumption that the activists had destroyed a timeless piece of history. Some outlets framed them as an appalling example of ‘gen z’ culture, while others said it was disrespectful or in poor tase.
Others, however, noted that without such extreme (seeming) visual displays to illustrate their point, the topic wouldn’t have been captured by news cycles as much as it has.
One of the protesters in question, Phoebe Plummer, who is active on social media, has shared her reasons for staging that particular action and reiterated that there was literally “no damage” to the actual painting:
“I would like to make one thing perfectly clear – we did not damage to the painting whatsoever; I was in court yesterday, heard that there’s been minimal damage done to the frame, which is reparable, replaceable and absolutely no damage done to the painting,” said Plummer in a video.
“It was behind glass and we genuinely never would have considered doing it if we didn’t know that it was behind glass and that we wouldn’t do any damage.”
Agreeing that the act itself was “ridiculous”, she explained the aim to get “the conversation going” about whether fossil fuels should be subsidised.
“We know that civil resistance works – history has shown us that it works.
“I’m stood here today as a queer woman and the reason I’m able to vote, the reason I’m able to go to university, hopefully someday marry the person I love, is because of people who have taken part in civil resistance before me.”
listen to her explain the Van Gogh soup protest.
she’s got a point, no? pic.twitter.com/cObcWNx8aP
— michael mezz (@michaelmezz) October 18, 2022