Let Them Eat Cake?

What do Claude Monet, Van Gogh, mashed potatoes, and soup all have in common? Well, that is the question many are seeking answers to after climate activists threw food at famous paintings in protest. On October 14, 2022, a pair of activists with the climate group “Just Stop Oil” hurled tomato soup at Sunflowers: the iconic painting by Vincent Van Gogh. The protesters then proceeded to glue their hands to the wall beneath the painting. Similarly, on October 23 the German protest group “Last Generation” threw mashed potatoes on Grain Sacks by Claude Monet at the
Barberini Museum in Potsdam, Germany. Strangely enough, the group also glued their hands to the wall. Even though there was a big commotion about these paintings being “destroyed,” these acts of protest did not damage the paintings as they were protected by glass panes.

Although the question remains on how effective these measures were and if they managed to accomplish anything. These protests have certainly achieved their goal of getting everyone’s attention,
yet the public is still confused about how throwing food on art and the climate crisis have a connection. For the protests in London, the goal was to shed light on how former Prime Minister Liz Truss decimated much of the nation’s climate progress. Their message revolved around the spiking energy costs due to the war in Ukraine, and the British government’s move to allow oil and gas companies access to new drilling locations in the North Sea. For the protests in Germany, the stunts centered on demands to cut speed limits on the country’s highways to 62 miles per hour and to make transit more affordable.

Each group of protestors was seen shouting phrases like “What is worth more, art or life?” or “Are you concerned more about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet?” As for how successful these protests have been, it differs from each person’s perspective. The protestors feel that the art stunts were successful because they were both filmed and posted on social
media. The groups had the purpose of their protest to reach an international audience and they got just that. These acts have also sparked conversations with people of different backgrounds. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly wrote online that people should “stop giving these attention seeking adult-toddlers the coverage they crave.” While others say that it certainly got people thinking and have even said, “They’re not killing anyone, climate change will.” The attention received was all that mattered according to the protesters. One of the activists, Phoebe Plummer, recently stated in an interview that “I recognize that it looks like a slightly ridiculous action. I agree; it is ridiculous. But we’re not asking the question if everyone should be throwing soup on paintings. What we’re doing is getting the conversation going so we can ask the questions that matter.” Whether or not you agree with the actions of these protestors, climate change is real and is changing our everyday lives.