Two climate activists scrawled blue ink across a series of Andy Warhol screen prints at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, Australia this week to raise awareness of the country’s fossil fuel subsidies.
Images and video of the protest posted to social media show the two activists also trying to glue their hands to the famous print series titled Campbell’s Soup I, which is framed and under glass.
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A press release from Stop Fossil Fuels Subsidies, which is part of A22 Network, a coalition of civil resistance organizations, said the protest was aimed at ending the Australian government’s financial support of industries like natural gas and coal. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and 71% of its electricity in 2021 came from fossil fuels.
One of the activists at the Canberra protest was identified in a press release as a mother of three named Bonnie Cassen. She said Andy Warhol depicted consumerism gone mad in his iconic print series.
“Families are having to choose between medicine and food for their children while fossil fuel companies return record profits. And yet our government gives $22,000 a minute in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry,” she said while applying glue to her palm.
The protest follows similar actions by climate change activists at major galleries and museums in cities across Europe. Activists have thrown liquids or glued their hands on the glass or frames of iconic works such as Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Claude Monet’s Meules, and Francisco Goya’s paintings The Clothed Maja and The Naked Maja. Videos and statements about those protests have explained that the intention is not to damage the paintings and sculptures, but only to highlight the lack of government action against the causes of worsening climate disasters. The climate protests started in late June, with most actions committed by the UK climate activism group Just Stop Oil.
Earlier this month, the Association of Art Museum Directors, a prominent museum group that includes many of the most important art institutions in the U.S. and Canada, released a statement speaking out against the protests by climate activists in Europe.
“This Association has always been clear that attacks on works of art cannot be justified, whether the motivations are political, religious, or cultural,” the AAMD said in its statement. “Art crosses boundaries of time and place to underscore the creativity that people everywhere have expressed, and they represent our shared humanity.”
The statement continued, “Attacking art for any purpose undermines those common bonds. Such protests are misdirected, and the ends do not justify the means.”