Activists have covered a canvas from the National Gallery to depict a landscape ravaged by pollution. Van Gogh, Turner, Constable… This is the fourth action of its kind in less than a week.
This is a cause to which they are very attached. In less than a week, environmental activists from the British collective Just Stop Oil had their hands on a fourth painting kept in British collections. Two activists covered up a painting in the National Gallery in London on Monday, The hay cart painted in 1827 by John Constable (1776-1837). The activists affixed an image representing a bucolic landscape massacred by fossil fuels, before sticking to the frame of the work.
“This painting is part of our heritage but it is no more important than the 3.5 billion men, women and children who are already at risk due to the climate crisis”, said one of the two activists, a 22-year-old music student. No information concerning the state of the painting was given Monday at the end of the day. According to information sent to AFP by the London police, the Just Stop Oil activists have not been arrested.
Before the collective’s action at the National Gallery, three paintings exhibited in the United Kingdom had already paid the price for Just Stop Oil’s hands-on operation. After getting hands-on on Wednesday with a Scottish landscape by Horatio McCulloch (1805-1867) presented at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow then, on Thursday, on Peach Trees in Blossom by Van Gogh (1853-1890) at the Courtauld Gallery, the activists renewed their action at the Manchester Art Gallery on Friday. Wearing orange t-shirts flocked with the name of their movement, two young men placed a hand smeared with glue on the frame of Thomson’s Aeolian Harpa view of the Thames painted by William Turner (1775-1851) in 1809.
Why lay your hands on these three serene and rural landscapes? To shed light on the collective’s fight against fossil fuels and, in passing, to destroy the world of culture. “Our wildlife and our landscapes are devastated and we face famine and war. Our government is accelerating this chaos by authorizing new fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Friday one of the two activists to have stuck to the painting of William Turner, according to the British daily The Guardian . No one is entitled to a pass. By refusing to use its power and influence to help end this madness, the art world is complicit in this genocide.”
Before gluing themselves to the work in the Manchester Art Gallery, the two activists also tagged the ground in front of the painting, inscribing in purple paint their slogan “No New Oil” (“no new oil projects”). According to a press release from the Just Stop Oil collective, the area of the Thames depicted in William Turner’s canvas could find itself regularly flooded from 2030.
Stop all oil and gas projects
The English Gallery was evacuated by Greater Manchester Metropolitan County Police Force on Friday. After a 40-minute intervention, the two activists were imprisoned by the police, on the grounds of the degradation of public property. According to Manchester Evening News , the painting and its frame were immediately examined by curators at the Manchester Art Gallery. The museum has not communicated on the accident since Friday. The Courtauld Gallery, on the other hand, where another group of activists had taken on Van Gogh’s painting, said the French artist’s painting had not been defaced.
Akin to Extinction Rebellion, the Just Stop Oil collective calls for an immediate halt to all new oil and gas projects. He has stood out in recent weeks in the United Kingdom by carrying out various blocking actions. On Sunday, five activists disrupted a British Grand Prix race at Silverstone by bursting onto the circuit.
Composed mainly of young people between the ages of twenty and thirty, the group made headlines in March, interrupting a match between the clubs of Everton and Newcastle, in Liverpool. Just Stop Oil figurehead Louis McKechnie, 21, told AFP in June that he was ready to become a “public enemy no. 1” to sound the alarm about the climate crisis. “What is most important? This painting ? Or a future?, summarized Thursday the activists who intervened around the canvas of Van Gogh, in London. With one limit: to remain non-violent.