Two climate activists were arrested after they hurled mashed potatoes at a glass-covered painting by French Impressionist Claude Monet at a museum in Germany Sunday, the latest protest aimed at drawing attention to the impacts of climate change by targeting famous works of art.
Videos of the high-profile incident quickly gained attention online over the weekend after activists from the group “Last Generation” — wearing bright orange vests — approached Monet’s “Grainstacks” and doused it with food. The protesters then glued their hands to the wall in front of the artwork.
Officials from Museum Barberini in Potsdam said there did not appear to be any damage to the painting. The artwork, which portrays the stacks of hay that were near the artist’s home in France, was sold at auction in 2019 for nearly $111 million and is on display at the museum as part of the Hasso Plattner Collection.
The museum said the painting, one of Monet’s “most important and valuable” works, is expected to be back on display by Wednesday. It’s one of 25 Monet paintings depicting grainstacks.
We make this #Monet the stage and the public the audience.— Letzte Generation (@AufstandLastGen) October 23, 2022
If it takes a painting – with #MashedPotatoes or #TomatoSoup thrown at it – to make society remember that the fossil fuel course is killing us all:
Then we'll give you #MashedPotatoes on a painting! pic.twitter.com/HBeZL69QTZ
One of the protesters, whom the group identified as Mirjam Herrmann, started shouting in German and said that while the world is “in a climate catastrophe,” all people are afraid of “is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a painting,” a reference to an incident earlier this month where climate protesters threw soup on Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London.
“Do you know what I’m afraid of? I’m afraid because science tells us that we won’t be able to feed our families in 2050,” Herrmann said, according to a video translation posted online. “Does it take mashed potatoes on a painting to make you listen? This painting is not going to be worth anything if we have to fight over food.”
Last Generation posted on Twitter that if it “takes a painting — with #MashedPotatoes or #TomatoSoup thrown at it — to make society remember that the fossil fuel course is killing us all: Then we’ll give you #MashedPotatoes on a painting!”
The group said that both Herrmann and a second activist, identified in a tweet as Benjamin, were arrested after the protest. The museum said in a statement that the police intervened quickly and the protesters were “taken into custody.”
In a post about the incident, Last Generation pointed to the protest in London and again raised the question: “What is worth more, art or life?”
“The painting was not damaged in the action,” the group said. “Quite in contrast to the immeasurable suffering that floods, storms and droughts are already bringing upon us today as harbingers of the impending catastrophe.”
Ortrud Westheider, the museum’s director, admonished the actions of the protesters and said that “endangering paintings in museums and willingly accepting their destruction is not a contribution to climate protection.”
“If the activists had been interested in the pictures, they would know that impressionist painters like Monet in particular dealt intensively with changes in nature in their pictures,” she said in a statement.
The protest was the latest in a series of similar actions that have drawn international attention and sparked discussions about the activists’ approach to raising concerns about climate change.
In recent months, protesters with the group have glued themselves to a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” at the Royal Academy in London and to John Constable’s “The Hay Wain” at the National Gallery in London.
🥫 JUST STOP OIL SUPPORTERS CHOOSE LIFE OVER ART 🥫— Just Stop Oil ⚖️💀🛢 (@JustStop_Oil) October 14, 2022
🎨 Human creativity and brilliance is on show in this gallery, yet our heritage is being destroyed by our Government’s failure to act on the climate and cost of living crisis.#VanGogh #FreeLouis #FreeJosh #CivilResistance pic.twitter.com/gXXGLsi0ej
Shannon Larson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.