Art and climate intersects at museums around the world

Climate activists ask, ‘What’s worth more, life or art?’

Image by: Amna Rafiq
None of the paintings have been damaged.

Art museums across the world have been the setting for the latest climate protests as activists have thrown everything from soup to mashed potatoes on famous paintings. 

Just Stop Oil and Letzte Generation are two of the many climate action organizations orchestrating the art-infused demonstrations. Their mission is to get people as angry about the climate crisis—which continues to be overlooked—as they are about art vandalism. 

The movement started in London and has since inspired widespread vandalism. The paintings themselves are never harmed as the activists choose paintings with cultural value and glass protection in their exhibition—so what’s the point?

Connoisseurs of this non-violent movement have missioned themselves to force people to question their comfort zones. Inspired by past resistance movements, the vandals want the public to care as much about natural hazards increasing yearly and displacing people as they do about someone pouring soup on a protected Van Gogh painting. 

They seek to ask the question of what has more worth: life or art?  

While some argue the tactics taken by protestors are pathetic, and others argue they’re ground-breaking, the actions of these predominantly youth-led climate action groups have gained traction and headlines across the world. In some sense, their call to action is being heard. 

The seemingly radical actions of the climate protestors to force their message into the eye line of the public lacks cohesion with efforts similar to them. They’re targeting the inconspicuous and publicly funded institutions of art museums rather than the corporate and revenue-hungry entities that profit on the deterrence of positive climate action. 

Well-intentioned soup-throwing acts are just that—well-intentioned—and leave little more than traces of confusion and disarray for museum staff in their wake. 

The meaning of performing destruction in the face of environmental destruction is powerful yet lost in the continued acts of protest. Generating conversation is important, but all the ensuing copycat efforts have desensitized the public, thus making them care less. 

Anger predates conversation; there’s no question about that. Perhaps these continued efforts will prove fruitful as the public decides where they put their support, but the climate crisis goes further than political loyalty. It has transgressed into a need to question the culture that perpetuated monetary wealth above the quality of life around the world. 

Condemnation of the protestors is not being argued for here; they’re right in the sense that every day we move closer and closer to irreparable climate disaster while the world’s most powerful simply don’t seem to care. 

However, they will see that art museums are not the party responsible for the climate crisis by approaching acts of protest with more conscious thought into who is affected and how. They should not have to bear the brunt of the cost of their actions, but rather those who have an indispensable weight of interests to persevere against climate action.


art museum, Climate activism, protests

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