What’s the deal with the Van Gogh soup throwers?

What’s the deal with the Van Gogh soup throwers?
Activists of “Just Stop Oil" glue their hands to the wall after throwing soup at a van Gogh’s painting “Sunflowers" at the National Gallery in London, Britain October 14, 2022. Just Stop Oil/Handout via REUTERS

Climate activism groups have sprouted up all over the world as the climate crisis has become more intense and received more news coverage. To get the world’s attention, though, climate protesters have gotten creative. And, over the past few months, activists in the UK have been gluing themselves (literally) to the frames of famous paintings in museums. It’s worth noting that some British museums (like the British Museum and Science Museum) have received sponsorship money from oil companies.

On Friday, two members of the climate activism group Just Stop Oil threw tomato soup all over Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic “Sunflowers" painting in London’s National Gallery. The painting itself is covered by glass, so no damage to it was actually done. After souping the painting, the activists then each glued a hand to the wall and revealed their “Just Stop Oil" shirts. One of the protesters posed the question: “What is worth more, art or life?"

Key comments:

“What is worth more, art or life?" said one of the activists, Phoebe Plummer, from London. “Is it worth more than food? More than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people? The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of oil crisis, fuel is unaffordable to millions of cold, hungry families. They can’t even afford to heat a tin of soup."

Mel Carrington, the spokesperson for Just Stop Oil, said that these protests are “putting psychological pressure on the government" by generating publicity.

Alex de Koning, another spokesperson for Just Stop Oil, told a journalist that, although they are concerned about alienating people from their cause, “this is not The X Factor." He added, “We are not trying to make friends here, we are trying to make change, and unfortunately this is the way that change happens."

Member of UK Parliament and former Secretary of Culture Nadine Dories tweeted: “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. These protestors should be removed and held responsible for the damage and disruption."