Chris Lieberman, FISM News
Art galleries across the U.K. have seen a series of protests in which climate activists are gluing themselves to famous paintings, including a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, in order to demand government action on climate change.
On Tuesday at the National Gallery in London, three protesters from the group Just Stop Oil glued themselves to the frame of Copy of Leonardo’s The Last Supper, a replica of the original da Vinci masterpiece believed to be painted by two of his pupils. The demonstrators also spray-painted the words, “No new oil” underneath the painting.
“No painting is worth more than my 6-month old nephew’s life,” said Jessica Agar, one of the protesters, in a statement. “If the directors of this gallery really believe that art has the power to change the world then I demand that they claim that power, close and refuse to open until the government commits to no new oil.”
According to their website, JSO “is a coalition of groups working together to ensure the Government commits to halting new fossil fuel licensing and production.”
The incident at the National Gallery was the fifth JSO protest at U.K. art galleries in a week. The day before, protesters covered John Constable’s “The Hay Wain” with a modified version of the painting meant to depict the environmental effects of man’s reliance on oil, and then glued themselves to the frame. Similar protests took place in Glasgow and Manchester. To date, it does not appear that the protesters damaged any of the pieces of art.
JSO insists that they are not protesting art itself, but trying to use the platform to bring awareness to the dangers of climate change. “I am an art student but there is no place for me to follow my calling as an artist in a world where I have no future,” said Agar. “In no uncertain terms, the establishment – of which the Royal Academy is a part – has condemned me and all young people to suffer. I am outraged and you should be too.”
In addition to art galleries, JSO has also targeted other major cultural institutions like sporting events for their demonstrations. On Saturday, six JSO activists were arrested after breaching the track at the British Grand Prix, a Formula 1 race, temporarily bringing the event to a halt. In March, an English Premier League soccer match was delayed when a protester tied himself to one of the goalposts.
“We have no time left, to say that we do is a lie,” said Lucy Porter, who was also part of Tuesday’s protest. “We must halt all new oil and gas right now, we will stop disrupting art institutions as soon as the government makes a meaningful statement to do so. Until then, the disruption will continue so that young people know we are doing all we can for them. There is nothing I would rather be doing.”
U.K. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries condemned the protests, tweeting, “These attention seekers aren’t helping anything other than their own selfish egos. Disrupting access to our fabulous cultural assets and putting them at risk of damage is unacceptable.”