climate activist

Why Climate Activists Are Throwing Paint At Famous Artworks?

A new set of climate activist have been protesting at ‘art museums,’ since May 2022. Their actions involve throwing paint and food on the protective glass of famous paintings, aiming to convey the message that art cannot thrive in a world that is being destroyed.

Environmental activists from organizations such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion have been using unconventional methods, such as cake, soup, paint, and glue, to draw attention to their cause. They do this by marking the glass protecting art pieces and affixing themselves to the frame or wall around them, in order to engage museum visitors.

Each time, their message is simple: there is no art on a dead planet. These climate activists say they have no interest in damaging art. Instead, they want to raise awareness about the climate emergency and attract new members.

The increasing global temperature is impacting everyone. In July, the Earth experienced its hottest week ever recorded. Additionally, marine heat waves are causing the death of numerous ocean creatures. Wildfires are becoming more severe, causing unprecedented warnings about air quality. Farmers are facing difficulties in growing food due to either drought or excessive rainfall. Ultimately, these factors are leading to a famine.

Despite receiving mixed public reactions, the climate activists have no intentions of altering their plans even after the criminal charges were pressed against two protesters who vandalized a sculpture at the National Gallery of Art.

Activists from the ‘Just Stop Oil’ campaign group, with hands glued to the frame of the painting ‘The Hay Wain’ by English artist John Constable, but covered in a mock ‘undated’ version including roads and aircraft, protest against the use of fossil fuels, in the National Gallery in London on July 4, 2022. (Photo by CARLOS JASSO / AFP)

“The function of art is so that people can understand the world they live in and reflect on the human condition, but big art does not fulfill that function,” said an Extinction Rebellion NYC spokesperson. “This is why we are in museums: to tell people that we are in the middle of an emergency, and now is the time to confront that emergency.”

A larger set of data suggest the art museum protests might be an effective call to action, though it’s too early to tell.

Climate change is actually a threat to art too. In a report released in June, big players like the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation and the National Endowment for the Humanities emphasized the urgent need for action to tackle climate change, because it puts at risk cultural heritage sites, art collections, and institutions.

Reference- National Geographic, BBC, The Guardian, Down To Earth, Extinction Rebellion website, Just Stop Oil website