Two members of German climate change action group Lezte Generation (Last Generation) soused Claude Monet’s 1890 painting Meules with mashed potatoes on Sunday in an effort to bring attention to the climate crisis. Each activist then glued one hand to the wall and knelt before the spud-soaked work, valued at $110.7 million, to address those gathered. Their effort, which took place at Potsdam, Germany’s Museum Barberini, closely echoed that earlier this month by a pair of demonstrators from the activist group Just Stop Oil, who sloshed tomato soup across Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers at London’s National Gallery in attempt to draw attention to their cause. Like the van Gogh work, the Monet painting was protected by glass and thus undamaged.
“People are starving, people are freezing, people are dying,” asserted Mirjam Herrmann, one of the demonstrators. “We are in a climate catastrophe and all you are afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a painting. You know what I’m afraid of? I’m afraid because science tells us that we won’t be able to feed our families in 2050. Does it take mashed potatoes on a painting to make you listen?” Herrmann continued. “This painting is not going to be worth anything if we have to fight over food. When will you finally start to listen? When will you finally start to listen and stop business as usual?”
The demonstrators chose the painting, which they knew to be protected, based on its idyllic portrayal of nature—the work depicts scattered haystacks in a field at sunrise—and thus its connection to their cause. “Monet loved nature and captured its unique and fragile beauty in his works,” said Letzte Generation Aimée van Baalen in a statement. “How is it that so many are more afraid of damaging one of these images of reality than of the destruction of our world itself, the magic of which Monet admired so much?”
Letzte Generation had earlier staged similar demonstrations, with its members gluing themselves to the frames of renowned paintings inside major institutions. Their efforts aroused the ire of the German Cultural Council, which pleaded with them to cease and desist, fearing injury to the works. In the wake of the widely covered Just Stop Oil action, which shocked the public and elevated the topic of climate change in the media without damaging the targeted work, more such actions may be expected by young activist groups, whose members are among one of the first generations who will be forced to fully face the dire effects of human-caused climate change in the coming decades.