What’s Going On Here?
Climate activists have been gluing themselves to world-famous paintings to protest the burning of fossil fuels during a climate crisis. The latest event occurred over the weekend in Madrid’s Prado museum.
What Does It Mean?
Two climate activists glued their hands to Goya’s “La Maja Vestida” and “La Maja Desnuda”. They also spray-painted “+1.5 C” on the gallery walls, referring to a recent report by the UN stating that current pledges by the international community to cut emissions are not enough to limit global warming to 1.5 °C.
This is one of several similar protests which have been occurring in the build up to COP27. In Belgium, two activists have just been sentenced to prison for gluing themselves to “Girl With The Pearl Earring”. And last month, protesters from Just Stop Oil threw tomato soup over Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in the National Gallery. The activists condemned new fossil fuel licenses and highlighted the cost of living crisis: stating that many people will not even be able to afford soup this winter.
Importantly, the paintings mentioned are protected by a layer of glass so no damage has been done to any artwork.
Why Should We Care?
The attack on historic and well-known pieces of art has sparked a lot of controversy.
Many view these protests as extreme and attention-seeking, and ultimately counter-productive as they risk alienating the public from the cause.
This recent series of protests aims to evoke an emotional response to the damage of something beautiful and precious, and encourage people to reflect on whether they feel the same way about the impacts of the climate crisis. This was also to attract more attention and hence raise more awareness.
What is your opinion on these protests? Have climate activists really taken it too far, or are critics just shooting the messenger?
· The debate around these protests is an example of the Activist’s Dilemma: where activists must choose between moderate actions which risk being ignored, and more extreme measures which gain more media support but could drive some people away. This CNN article discusses this in the context of the art gallery protests.