New shock action of pro-climate activists: the famous painting “Death and life” by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt was sprayed with a black liquid on Tuesday, the Leopold Museum in Vienna announced. “Alas, it happened: we were victims of an attack shortly after 11 a.m.” (1000 GMT), spokesman Klaus Pokorny told AFP.
“After an initial inventory in the presence of the restoration team, we can raise concerns about any possible damage to the work and its original frame,” the institution then specified in a press release. The group “Letzte Generation” (Last generation) claimed responsibility by posting images on Twitter. We see two men vandalizing the work, one sticking his hand to the window, before being neutralized by an employee. “Stop the destruction (of humanity) by fossil fuels. We are rushing into climatic hell,” they shouted.
— Antoine Llorca (@antoinellorca) November 15, 2022
Admission was free on Tuesday as part of a day sponsored by the Austrian oil group OMV. “The concerns of activists are legitimate, but attacking works of art is certainly not the best way to prevent the predicted changes in climate,” reacted the director of the museum, Hans-Peter Wipplinger.
“Not the way to go”
The Ecologist Secretary of State for Culture, Andrea Mayer, was understanding of the “concerns and also the despair” of the activists, in a press release sent to AFP. But she believes that “accepting the risk of irreversible damage to works of art is not the way to go”.
The two activists were not arrested but are the subject of “a complaint for material damage and disturbance of public order”, said a police spokesman, interviewed by AFP. The group “Letzte Generation”, present in Austria and Germany, defines itself as “the first generation to feel the beginning of the climate collapse – and the last to still be able to stop it”.
In recent weeks, environmental activists have multiplied actions around the world targeting works of art to alert public opinion to global warming. For example, they stuck their hands on a painting by Goya in Madrid or on Andy Warhol’s famous “Campbell’s Soup” silkscreen on display in Australia, threw tomato soup on Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in London and spread mashed potatoes on a Claude Monet masterpiece in Potsdam, near Berlin.
While the paintings remained unscathed, the “Sunflowers” incident resulted in light damage to the frame of the canvas. Nearly a hundred international museums, such as the Prado in Madrid, the Louvre in Paris, or the Guggenheim Museum in New York, declared themselves last week “deeply shocked by (the) reckless endangerment” of these works ” irreplaceable”.