Three climate activists appeared in a London court on Saturday on charges of criminal damage after protests including throwing soup at Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ painting at the National Gallery.
Two women, aged 20 and 21, were charged in connection with the soup-throwing protest on Friday, while a third was charged with paint sprayed on a rotating sign at Metropolitan Police headquarters in central London . The three women pleaded not guilty to criminal damage in Westminster Magistrates’ Court in two brief hearings on Saturday.
Protesters from the climate change protest groups Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil, who want the UK government to halt new oil and gas projects, staged a series of demonstrations in London on Friday.
Just Stop Oil said activists threw two cans of tomato soup at Van Gogh‘s oil painting, one of the Dutch artist’s most iconic works. The two demonstrators also glued themselves to the wall of the gallery.
Prosecutor Ola Oyedepo said the couple did not damage the oil painting, which was covered in a protective glass case, but the frame was damaged.
The painting, one of several versions of “Sunflowers” painted by Van Gogh in the late 1880s, was cleaned and returned to its place in the National Gallery on Friday afternoon.
District Judge Tan Irkam released the women on bail on the condition that they not be covered in paint or adhesive substances in a public place.
Police said they made 28 arrests in connection with Friday’s protests and another 25 were released on bail pending further investigation. Police arrested a further 26 people on Saturday after Just Stop Oil protesters blocked a major road in east London. Some demonstrators stuck to the road.
Just Stop Oil has drawn attention and criticism for its disruptive tactics, including targeting artworks in museums. In July, campaigners glued themselves to the frame of an early copy of Leonardo’s ‘The Last Supper’ at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and John Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’ at the National Gallery.
Activists have also blocked bridges and intersections across London during two weeks of protests against the UK government’s approach to climate change.
The latest wave of protests came as the Conservative government of Prime Minister Liz Truss opened a new licensing round for oil and gas operations in the North Sea and reversed a 2019 ban on fracking in England. Environmentalists say the UK government is undermining the fight against climate change.
Sign up for the Makeshift Features mailing list so you don’t miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews and surveys.