Climate activists smear painting

A few days after tomato soup was thrown at a Van Gogh painting in London's National Gallery, activists from the climate protection protest group Last Generation have smeared mashed potatoes on a painting from Claude Monet's Haystack series at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany. Commentators examine this approach to drawing attention to the climate problem.

Open/close all quotes
Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

What kind of youth do we want: lions or lambs?

Those who want to make things happen cannot always stay within the fold, the Kleine Zeitung reminds readers:

“Whether in the worldwide protests of Black Lives Matter, school strikes, or protest camps against pipelines or urban motorways, the accusation of inappropriateness is always the same: this kind of protest is wrong and achieves nothing. ... Perhaps such an action is not intended to be appropriate but to shake things up? What kind of youth do we want? Lions fighting for their future or lambs being led to the slaughter? Climate change is far more extreme than food on a painting. And a protest that does not cause outrage is not a protest.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Putting the focus back on the environment

There is no denying that the climate issue has been pushed too far into the background, Új Szó also warns:

“The activists are right, even when they use such drastic gestures to draw our attention. We really do take better care of paintings worth millions of dollars than of our environment. ... Only just recovering from the Covid pandemic and confronted with the war in Ukraine, society has paid precious little attention of late to the environmental issues that were widely seen as a priority until March 2020.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Pointless nonsense

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has no sympathy with such forms of protest:

“The youths protested loudly that the climate catastrophe was more important than mashed potatoes on a painting. That is correct, but then the same goes for pouring Frankfurt green sauce on the protesters on the grounds that the climate catastrophe is more important than their cleanliness. ... We have no alternative but to view the members of the 'Last Generation' as people whose objective is to grab attention on the cheap while conveying the impression that they are doing a lot for the climate - although in reality such gestures do nothing for the climate. ... The only demonstrable pressure they've created is on museum security guards.”

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

Sullying their own cause

Göteborgs-Posten also says such acts are pointless:

“The attempt to restrict forms of artistic expression and people's right to enjoy them on the basis of political beliefs is a form of sectarian thinking: everything is seen as secondary to one's own struggle and the ideas behind it. Granted: the climate activists' goal is not to introduce censorship until we solve the climate crisis, and they are not harming anyone. But ultimately their approach only sullies the climate issue.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Use art as an ally

There are cleverer and more efficient ways of using painting, literature and culture in the fight against climate change, La Libre Belgique insists:

“The hype is there, but it is so devoid of meaning and so reminiscent of the way totalitarian regimes destroy works of art that it only arouses indignation. ... Climate activists should distance themselves from such fist-banging actions in museums because they shock and divide far beyond art lovers' circles. To be useful their anger must be expressed in other ways. And what better way than to use art to express fears - through paintings, films, plays, novels and songs? Art is a natural ally of the environment and of humanity's great causes. Stupidity, on the other hand, is probably its greatest enemy.”