The climate activism group Just Stop Oil splashing tomato Soup on Vincent Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" (1888) at London's National Gallery (courtesy Just Stop Oil)

Climate activists in London went full-on Warhol on Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” (1888) at the National Gallery this morning, covering it in Heinz tomato soup. The two activists, members of the group Just Stop Oil, then glued their hands to the wall below the painting, which is behind protective glass. They were both taken into police custody. The painting was not damaged and it’s already back on view, the National Gallery told Hyperallergic.

A video posted on Twitter by the Guardian‘s environment reporter Damien Gayle captures the activists splashing the tomato soup on the famous masterpiece around 11am. “Oh my gosh,” a man is heard yelling in the background, among audible gasps of shock. Another man is heard calling for security.

Just Stop Oil took responsibility for the action in a tweet, also asking: “Is art worth more than life? More than food? More than justice?”

“The cost of living crisis and the climate crisis is driven by oil and gas,” the group added, and called for the release of its members.

But why tomato soup? Did the activists confuse Van Gogh with Andy Warhol? If so, it’s worth reminding everyone that Warhol had ties to the Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a dictator and an oil mogul. Warhol also made a portrait of the Shah’s wife, Empress Farah Pahlavi, just three years before the couple was overthrown in 1979.

London’s Metropolitan Police said that the two protesters were arrested on charges of criminal damage and aggravated trespass.

In recent months, climate activists have glued themselves to masterpieces in several museums including the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Vatican in Rome, the Courtauld Gallery in London, and others. Today’s action is by far the most daring, and controversial, of them all.

@hyperallergic

What do you think about the tomato soup being splashed on a Van Gogh? Art critic @hragv says we shouldn’t overreact, this is what happens when the ultra rich take over our museums and aren’t held accountable for their roles in societal destruction. #vangogh #juststopoil #museums #climatecrisis

♬ original sound – Hyperallergic

Editor’s Note, 10/14/2022, 12:32 EDT: This article has been updated with new information.

The Latest

Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. They apparently not only confused Van Gogh with Warhol, but Heinz with Campbell’s. Why are they talking about food insecurity, then wasting food in their protest? They are protesting serious problems, deserving of attention, but equally deserving of some basic research.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *