Despite the pandemic, the art industry has continued to grow. Sotheby’s and Christie’s have made significant progress, as has the galleries’ engagement with NFT and contemporary art. While focusing on income, people seem to have forgotten about the one planet we owe our lives to, the economy narrowly avoiding recession, and the world’s acute focus on ever-increasing construction. Humans depend on the earth’s resources. We seem to have accelerated technological development while turning a blind eye to the issue of climate change. The climate crisis will soon become inevitable. We are continually reminded to make positive changes when it comes to the environment, and artists, through installations and interactive art, have also played a vital role in this. However, this is insufficient and so many organizations have stepped in to take responsibility.
Recently, activists belonging to “Just Stop Oil” arrested a major arts institution, the Royal Academy of Arts in London, for the sixth time the previous week in an act of civil resistance. Five members of the organization Just Stop Oil doused the interior of the Royal Academy with paint and laid their hands on the frame of the copy of The last supper The painting. At Giampietrino’s The last supper is a large-scale replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic painting, and it is based on the biblical scene in which Jesus announces that one of his twelve apostles will betray him. Beneath the photo, protesters also spray-painted the “No New Oil” demand in white.
Just Stop Oil, which was founded earlier this year, describes itself as a coalition of groups aiming to ensure the government commits to ending new licenses and fossil fuel production. The organization wants the government to immediately freeze all future licenses and permits for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK. The group’s website accuses the government of intentionally aiding the fossil fuel sector through subsidies and outrageous tax incentives for the extraction of new fossil fuels, describing the exploitation of new oil and gas resources in the UK United as an obscene and murderous strategy. The group says there has been no rapid, large-scale societal transformation, mass adoption of low-carbon technologies or war mobilization.
Just Stop Oil also released a statement following the latest protest at the Royal Academy of Arts, naming several of the protesters. One of them being a 21-year-old art student, Jessica Agar, added a call for art institutions to join their cause. “If the directors of this gallery truly believe that art has the power to change the world, then I demand that they claim that power, close and refuse to open until the government commits not to not use new oil,” she said.
To make their voices known, the organization has organized several protests this year, including a red carpet appearance at the BAFTAs (The British Academy Film Awards) in March, when activists shouted and beat drums while wearing t- shirts with the inscription “Just Stop Oil”. ‘ and ‘Just Look Up’. Later that month, members of the group tried to tie themselves to the goal posts in Premier League games, including Everton v Newcastle and Tottenham v West Ham. Members of the organization have recently advocated with art institutions, settling on renowned works of art across the UK. The event at the Royal Academy of Arts in London comes just days after another group of protesters lashed out at John Constable’s The Hay Wain at the National Gallery in London. Three other paintings, including that of Van Gogh Peach trees in bloom, were targeting galleries in London, Manchester and Glasgow last week. While protesters were arrested at every opportunity, the campaign persisted.
Just Stop Oil further states: “Eight years from now, we must completely end our dependence on fossil fuels. The transition will require massive investments in clean technologies, renewable energy and energy storage, but this cannot be done at current levels of energy consumption. We need to reduce energy demand by isolating Britain and rethinking the way we travel, including providing free public transport everywhere. It starts with shifting government subsidies from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy, transportation and insulation.
(Text by Vatsala Sethi, Deputy Editorial Coordinator (Arts))