LONDON – Climate protesters have stormed art galleries across London in recent days to protest against the production and licensing of new fossil fuels, sticking their hands to the frame of a famous 200-year-old English painting years old, as well as a 15th century copy of Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” by Vinci.
Five protesters spray-painted the words ‘No New Oil’ on an exhibition wall at the Royal Academy in London on Tuesday, where a copy of da Vinci “The Last Supper” is showing.
They then glued their hands to the frame of the painting, which is believed to have been completed in 1520 by the Italian painter Giampietrino, a pupil of Da Vinci. The original “Last Supper” (circa 1495-1498) is inside the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy.
The incident was organized by supporters of Just Stop Oil, a UK climate activist group that has been behind several recent protests, including a similar incident involving a painting by Vincent van Gogh and another painting in oil by John Constable.
Footage shared by Just Stop Oil shows protesters gathering in front of the painting. A man can be seen spraying the words “No New Oil” on the wall below the painting as the other protesters sit with their hands glued to the frame.
Just Stop Oil activists are seen with the words ‘No New Oil’ spray painted on a display wall at the Royal Academy in London, where a copy of Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ (https:// www.royalacademy.org.uk/art-artists/work-of-art/the-last-supper)” is
The day before, the demonstrators also stuck to John Constable’s 1821 painting “The Hay Wain” at the National Gallery in London. They were identified later like Hannah Hunt, 23, and Eben Lazarus, 22, per Just Stop Oil.
During the incident, the couple also covered the painting with their own “reimagined version”, calling on the government to end new oil and gas licenses and on arts institutions “to join them in civil resistance”, Just said. Stop Oil in a press release. .
“The disruption will end when the UK government makes a meaningful statement that it will end new oil and gas licensing,” Hunt said in a press release.
The Hay Wain is considered one of Constable’s most famous paintings and among the most iconic pieces of British art. It depicts a rural scene, including a wooden cart driving through shallow water, on the River Stour in Suffolk.
“The reimagined version features a nightmarish scene that shows how oil will destroy our countryside,” the group Just Stop Oil said in a statement. “The river is gone, to be replaced by a road, planes fill the sky, pollution from cities spits on the horizon, trees are burned by forest fires, an old car is thrown in front of the mill and the famous Hay Wain cart carries an old washing machine.”
Protesters were seen wearing white T-shirts with the slogan “Just Stop Oil” written across the front as each had one hand glued to the picture frame.
“I want to work in the arts, not disrupt them, but the situation we find ourselves in means that we must do everything possible in a non-violent way to prevent the total collapse of our orderly society,” Lazarus said, a music student from Brighton, in a statement.
Hannah Hunt, 23, and Eben Lazarus, 22, of British climate campaign group Just Stop Oil, are pictured in front of John Constable’s famous painting ‘The Hay Wain’ at the National Gallery in London on July 4, 2022. ( Credit: Just Stop the Oil)
Lazarus and Hunt were later abducted by police and arrested, according to the BBC.
The painting was also removed from the wall and examined by the National Gallery’s conservation team, who found it to have minor damage to its frame and some “disruption to the surface of the varnish on the painting – which have have now been successfully processed,” gallery officials told the BBC.
Activists target Vincent van Gogh painting and other events
Just Stop Oil has held several other protests in recent months, including two other activists who also stuck to the frame of an 1889 Vincent van Gogh painting at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London last month.
“I’m sorry everyone. We don’t want to do this…but we’re terrified for our future,” one of the protesters can be heard saying in video footage of the June 30 incident.
The painting, titled “La Crau With Peach Blossoms,” was not damaged but the frame required treatment to remove glue residue, gallery officials said.
Over the weekend, five Just Stop Oil activists disrupted the 2022 British Grand Prix at Silverstone by invading the track and sitting down. The incident happened during a race stop after a crash on the first lap, and the individuals were later evacuated by track officials.
In March, a Premier League football match was interrupted when a protester tied himself to one of the goal posts to protest against new fossil fuel supply projects. The March 18 incident in Everton’s game against Newcastle United forced the referee to stop play for nearly 10 minutes.
This story was reported from Cincinnati.