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Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum closed Thursday night to thwart climate protest

Protesters had planned the gather in the galleries where the frames of treasured art stolen in 1990 remain empty.Photo illustration by Ryan Huddle photo by David L. Ryan

For the second time since March, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum closed early amid the threat of a climate protest inside the storied Fenway cultural institution.

The museum announced Thursday that it would close early, shutting its doors on its monthly night of free admission, after learning about the biodiversity protest planned by Extinction Rebellion.

“Because the protest would potentially put our collection and community at risk, we have made the difficult decision to cancel normal Thursday evening hours from 5 – 9 pm,” the museum said in a statement. “This is particularly disappointing as the Museum is hosting its monthly Free First Thursday when free admission is offered after 3 pm.”


The museum will resume normal hours Friday , according to the statement. Visitors who had reserved tickets for the evening will be able to receive a free voucher to visit at a later date.

Extinction Rebellion activists use “non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the Climate and Ecological Emergency.”

In New York Thursday night, a US Open women’s semifinal tennis match was interrupted by climate protesters who delayed play for nearly 50 minutes. Four protesters wearing T-shirts that read “End Fossil Fuels” were finally ushered out of Arthur Ashe Stadium by police, including one protester who’d glued his feet to the ground, according to the Associated Press. Extinction Rebellion said it was responsible for the protest.

At the Gardner, the infamous home of one of the world’s greatest art thefts, the protestors’ planned to hang art in empty frames in the museum’s Dutch Room to raise awareness of ongoing biodiversity loss, according to the Boston chapter’s website.

“We will return to the museum to use it as space of public discourse (like Isabella Gardner has imagined it in her will) and reveal our art,” the event description read. “This is a peaceful protest without risk of arrest.”


The Globe could not immediately reach Extinction Rebellion for comment Thursday evening.

“These frames are important and fragile objects historic objects that also memorialize the tragic theft that deprives our public of the opportunity to enjoy masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and others,” the museum’s statement read.

The activists had planned for an earlier climate protest at the Gardner Museum back in March, but those plans were foiled when the museum shut down after catching wind of the plans.

In the last year, climate activists from Extinction Rebellion and other environmental groups have protested at art museums around the world in an effort to bring attention to their cause. In London, activists threw tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers. In Madrid and Melbourne, they glued their hands to famous paintings. In Potsdam, Germany, activists threw mashed potatoes at a Claude Monet painting.

Sarah Raza can be reached at Follow her @sarahmraza.