Protests are occurring more and more frequently within these last few years, whether it be for women’s rights, war or climate change. When thinking of protests, one might think of hundreds of people in the street marching with signs. However, “Just Stop Oil,” defined as “an activist group that…protest[s] the production of fossil fuels” by Smithsonian Magazine, has done something completely different.
In London’s famous National Gallery hangs incredible artworks by the world’s most beloved artists, including Claude Monet, Rembrandt and Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” painted in 1888, is one of his most famous in which we see beautiful, golden sunflowers. It hangs proudly in the National Gallery.
Although being something many love to gaze upon, “Just Stop Oil” thought the painting was perfect for an act of nonviolent protest. Multiple news outlets reported on how two members of the group approached the painting, “opened cans of tomato soup and threw” it at the artwork. They also “glued their hands to the wall below” it.
The motivation behind this form of protest was to get a reaction. When something so famous is in the path of destruction, people naturally become nervous or angry, and the story is of course going to hit the news.
Throwing soup on a classic Van Gogh painting obviously hit most news networks, and with the news of the painting came talk of “Just Stop Oil,” which was most likely their intent. While it did get people talking about their cause, was this really the most appropriate way to go about it?
Of course, a nonviolent protest is better than a violent protest, but what is the point of trying to ruin the artwork of someone who had nothing to do with the cause? Van Gogh died in 1890… do we really think he knew about the dangers of fossil fuels?
The painting was thankfully not damaged due to a protective glass covering it, but what if the soup had actually come in contact with the paint? A beautiful piece of history, as some would argue, would be ruined.
This is not the first time something like this has happened either. Earlier this year, a cake was thrown on the “Mona Lisa.” Similar to “Sunflowers” though, the glass cover protected the beloved painted woman.
The man who threw the cake did it for the cause of the environment. Honestly, though, I just cannot see how trying to ruin a piece of famous artwork is a form of protest. I understand that it gets people talking about the group behind it and what they stand for, but I think it is fair to say that more people care about the paintings than they do about the cause.
It is the sad truth that humans are selfish, and as much as scientists or activists want to warn us about how we are destroying the Earth, unfortunately no one is going to do anything about it unless it is directly affecting them at that very moment.
Furthermore, people are going to forget about this incident in a week. Something new will happen in the news, and this will more than likely be forgotten. Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” will continue to be shown at the National Gallery in London, and in a few weeks, those spectators will not even recall anything about soup or fossil fuels.
I think that if these people really want to make an impact, there are different ways in which to not only get the world’s attention, but keep it. Throwing food on art just doesn’t do enough, and honestly, it doesn’t even make much sense.
Photo courtesy of Vincent Van Gogh, Wikipedia.