On January 28, two Riposte Alimentaire activists sprayed soup The Mona Lisa in the Louvre room where she sits. This is a second attack targeting the legendary portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. In 2022, a man had scaled the work protected by protective glass.
If things continue like this, Mona Lisa will soon display a “drunk look” rather than her enigmatic smile.
The phenomenon of activists attacking works of art to highlight various struggles (climate change, poverty, etc.) continues. But for how long ? Could public disapproval be causing activists to change their minds?
In the fall of 2022, two young activists threw tomato soup on The sunflowers, by Van Gogh, at the National Gallery in London. Their gesture was imitated by two environmental activists who threw mash at The millstonesby Claude Monet, exhibited at the Barberini Museum in Potsdam, Germany.
A few days later, other activists threw tomato sauce at The girl with the pearl earring, by Vermeer, exhibited at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague. Then it was the turn of Death and lifeby Gustav Klimt, hanging in the Leopold Museum in Vienna, to receive a black liquid.
Peach trees in bloomby Vincent Van Gogh (Courtauld Gallery, London), The hay cartby John Constable (National Gallery, London), and Springby Boticelli (Uffizi Gallery, Florence), were also the target of activists.
Most of these actions are carried out by small groups under the umbrella of the international A22 Network, of which Just Stop Oil and Letzte Generation (Last Generation) are part. This network is not there to “raise awareness, beg or entertain”, but to “force change”.
When they get tired of soup or mash, these activists stick their hands on the wall or floor of museums. But beware of this practice, it can play bad tricks. At the Porsche Museum, located in Wolfsburg, Germany, activists glued their hands to the floor of the institution at the foot of luxury cars.
The owner, who completely ignored their complaints, turned off the lights, turned down the heat and left the premises for the weekend. The ecologists remained stranded for 42 hours.
Like many people, I admit that I have become impervious to these gestures intended to oppose art to various causes. “What’s more important?” Art or the right to healthy and sustainable food? “, declared an activist after attacking The Mona Lisaa few days ago.
Why vandalize art in order to denounce social injustices or a climate emergency when art already plays this role? The aberration is there.
After more than a year of these operations, I only see mechanical marketing operations intended to attract the attention of the public and the media (message not to send me: by speaking of this, you are playing their game).
Proof that all this is just marketing: most of the targeted works are protected. These activists (no doubt well advised by lawyers) make this choice because once in court, the accusations will be less serious.
The activists who doused the Van Gogh with soup were accused of “defacement” for an amount of less than $8,500, because the painting (valued at $80 million) is protected by glass. The collective which attacked Spring, by Botticelli, claimed to have consulted art restoration experts before making his move. Well coudon…
In the opinion of several experts, the major climate marches no longer have an impact. This is why activists make gestures of civil disobedience on a small scale, but which have a strong impact on the imagination, hence the choice of masterpieces.
But after months of actions in museums, it seems that activists realize that their actions are counterproductive. We understand that these actions do not rally citizens in general, but rather mobilize more people already committed to the cause.
Wear seems to have set in. And a loss of speed too. The number of interventions has decreased in recent months.
Actions in museums have lost their weight, thinks Ultima Generazione activist Michele Giuli. ” This action (Springby Botticelli) had a great media impact, but I believe that it has no real impact,” he declared on Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS) last November.
What will activists do now to draw attention to their cause? Performance halls do not seem to be a better avenue. Remember those who took to the stage of a London theater in full performance of Miserable. They left the place to the boos of the spectators.
The same thing happened to the environmental activist who attached himself with a padlock to an element of the decor of The Magic Flute at the Bastille Opera. The curtain fell under whistles and spectators shouting “Get out!” “.
Are we going to see an increase in disruptions during major public events, particularly those in the sporting world? Roland-Garros, the Tour de France and the Formula 1 Grand Prix have all been targeted in recent months.
One thing is certain, we have explored the museum scenario, it has become a standardized performance, a sort of habit. It is time to move on.
And to demonstrate creativity as great as that of the artists whose works are today mechanically doused with tomato soup.