Climate protesters simultaneously attacked sculptures in three European cities –


Climate activists in Europe attacked works of art in three places on Friday, but these protests were a departure from past actions as these works were not protected by glass. The three protests were also organized for the first time on the same day as part of a concerted effort.

In Paris, Milan and Oslo on Friday, climate activists from local organizations under the umbrella group A22 Network sprayed sculptures with orange paint or flour, as UN climate talks took place in Egypt. This time, the works were hit directly and lacked protective cover. Two instances involved outdoor sculptures. However, none of the art pieces were damaged, although some are still being monitored for possible further cleaning.

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At the main entrance of the Bourse de Commerce museum – Pinault Collection in Paris, two members of the French group Dernière Rénovation (Last Renovation) spray-painted the stainless steel sculpture of Charles Ray. horse and rider with orange paint. One of the protesters also climbed onto the life-size horse and placed a white T-shirt over the rider’s torso. The shirt read: “We have 858 days left,” referring to a deadline to reduce carbon emissions.

Hotly debated attacks on artwork by climate activists continue apace around the world, but so far, most cases have involved artwork kept behind glass covers, avoiding any real damage. But fears persist that similar acts could cause irreversible damage. Earlier this month, a joint statement from international museum directors said they were “deeply shocked by…[the] risk of danger” of the works of art in his care in light of this continuing trend.

On Friday, French culture minister Rima Abdul Malak visited the Bourse de Commerce after the incident and tweeted: “Ecological vandalism goes up a notch: an unprotected sculpture by Charles Ray was sprayed with paint in Paris.” Abdul Malak thanked the staff who “quickly stepped in” and added: “Art and environmentalism are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they are common causes!”

The Bourse, whose chief executive Emma Lavigne was present during Abdul Malak’s visit, declined to comment on the incident. The Charles Ray studio also did not respond to a request for comment.

The same day, the 46 foot tall Monolith (1944) by Gustave Vigeland in Oslo’s Vigeland Sculpture Park, along with surrounding sculptures by the same artist, were also sprayed with orange paint by the local Stopp oljeletinga (Stop Oil Search) group. Oslo’s monolith is a popular outdoor attraction, depicting 121 intertwined men, women and children carved from a single piece of granite.

Cleaning the porous sculptures will be more difficult than other works that have been targeted, the museum said.

“We have done the required cleanup for now. However, we [continue to] Check the situation to see if the paint has soaked into the granite. If so, we will of course consider additional requirements,” Vigeland Museum director Jarle Strømodden said in an email to ARTnews. “Neither the monolith, nor the granite sculptures in question have suffered physical damage. The sculptures are located in a public domain, a park that is open to everyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It’s all a matter of trust.”

The French group Dernière Rénovation explained that Friday’s various protests involving works of art were held “simultaneously all over the world,” according to the group’s Instagram post.

On the same day in Milan, the local Ultima Generazione (Last Generation) spilled sacks of flour on Andy Warhol’s painted 1979 BMW at the Fabbrica Del Vapore art center. The group also confirmed that “the action was carried out simultaneously in other countries of the world, with the other campaigns of the A22 Network.”

Contacted by phone, a Fabbrica Del Vapore employee said the Warhol-painted BMW had been cleaned and was again on view as part of its Andy Warhol exhibit through March 2023.

Reactions to the dramatic methods of climate protesters are divided. Israeli writer Etgar Keret recently likened the attacks to a form of “hate crime against art,” in a November 17 editorial for the French daily Release. Political reporter Thomas Legrand, meanwhile, argued in the same French newspaper that climate activists are “actually quite quiet” compared to the French “ultra-left” groups of the 1970s and 1980s. “I find them quite patient, polite and peaceful,” he wrote, given the urgent context. “How can we not understand?”


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