Van Gogh Painting Gets a Soup Bath by Climate Activists

'Sunflowers' wasn't harmed after 'Just Stop Oil' protesters vandalized it in London's National Gallery
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2022 11:15 AM CDT

Let's start off with the good news: The 1888 version of Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers is just fine, even after it just got tomato soup dumped all over it. The bad news, at least for the pair of climate activists that carried out the vandalism, is that they've been arrested. The BBC reports on the incident Friday at London's National Gallery, which houses one of the five versions of Sunflowers on display worldwide. Per a statement from the museum, the two protesters wearing "Just Stop Oil" T-shirts showed up in Room 43, where the Van Gogh oil painting hangs on the wall, shortly after 11am local time.

The Guardian has video of the incident, which shows the activists each opening up a can of Heinz tomato soup, then hurling it at the painting. One man can be heard yelling as the soup dripped down the painting, while one woman exclaimed, "Oh, my gosh!" Then a stunned man is heard saying, "Security?" as the activists pulled out bottles of glue and adhered themselves to the wall. "What is worth more?" one of the protesters then starts in. "Art or life? Is it worth more than food? Worth more than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?"

"They can't even afford to heat a tin of soup!" the activist said. The room was then "cleared of visitors and police were called," the museum said in its statement. The activist then railed against how the high cost of living, including fuel prices, was affecting families. The city's Metropolitan Police says the two activists were "unglued" from the wall, then arrested and charged with criminal damage and aggravated trespassing, per the AP, which adds that the Just Stop Oil group is known for targeting artwork at museums. The National Gallery says the painting was covered with glass and, save for some minor damage to the frame, wasn't harmed. Lots more here on the history of the painting, and its cousins. (More Vincent Van Gogh stories.)

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