Two climate activists smeared red paint and glued their hands to the protective glass on a Monet painting on display at the National Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.
The two women, wearing name tags identifying themselves as Emma and Maj, smeared the paint on The Artist’s Garden at Giverny (1900), a vivid landscape by the French Impressionist artist showcasing pink and purple irises. The painting is on display at the National Museum as part of the exhibition “The Garden – Six Centuries of Art and Nature” through a loan from from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, which acquired it in 1983.
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The two protestors wore T-shirts with the logo of the environmental organization Återställ Våtmarker (Restore Wetlands), which released a video of the protest on Twitter and Facebook. It also claimed responsibility for it in an interview with the AFP and argued that “gorgeous gardens like those in Monet’s painting will soon be a distant memory.”
Återställ Våtmarker spokesperson Helen Wahlgren told AFP that a climate catastrophe “is also a health crisis” with “millions of people already dying from the climate disaster.” She also said the Swedish government needed to do more to honor its international climate commitments. “We should lower our emissions by 31 percent. But our emissions are still increasing. It’s outrageous.”
The museum’s press office confirmed that two people smeared paint on The Artist’s Garden at Giverny around 2:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. Eastern) on June 14.
“The painting, which is encased in glass, is now being inspected by museum conservators to determine whether there is any damage,” the press office told CNN.
Police were alerted and arrested the two women, according to a press release from the Stockholm Region police, which said in a statement, “The crime is currently classified as aggravated vandalism. It is unclear whether more people than the two arrested are involved in the incident, but a number of people have been checked and the police will, among other things, review the course of events with the help of the museum’s surveillance cameras.”
The police press release was also updated to note that the two women were charged with “suspicion of serious damage.”
The incident at the National Museum in Stockholm follows a wave of climate protests at museums and art institutions in Canada, the United States, and Europe, all aimed at drawing attention to large government subsidies for the fossil fuel industry as well as the growing impact of climate change around the world.
However, the National Museum in Stockholm told the AFP it was “naturally” opposed to actions that risk damaging works of art.
“Cultural heritage has great symbolic value and it is unacceptable to attack or destroy it, regardless of the purpose,” said Per Hedstrom, the museum’s acting superintendent.