Protests are everywhere these days. From Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest to Supreme Court Justice’s homes, it seems everyone has something they want to protest. Lately, England has seen its share of protests, and they’re taking place at art galleries. One recently may have damaged a da Vinci.
Recently, a group of activists entered The Collection Gallery at the Royal Academy in the late morning and glued their hands to the frame of a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
The activists are part of a group that calls itself Just Stop Oil. Security cleared visitors away from the artwork and waited about an hour for police to arrive and arrest the protesters for suspicion of criminal damage.
“Just Stop Oil is a climate activist group in the UK using civil resistance with the aim of ensuring the UK Government commits to halting new fossil fuel licensing and production,” according to Wikipedia. They organized in February 2022.
Here’s what Just Stop Oil tweeted about their protest: “Video from Just Stop Oil supporters at The Last Supper painting earlier today. Our government are backtracking on all of their climate targets whilst people die from climate change across the globe. There will be not art and culture in a state of “total societal collapse[.]”
Others had different ideas about what these protesters did. UK’s Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport tweeted, “These attention seekers aren’t helping anything other than their own selfish egos. Disrupting access to our fabulous cultural assets and putting them at risk of damage is unacceptable. These protestors should be removed and held responsible for the damage and disruption.”
Others were upset by the incident as well. “Arts and culture commentator Dr Adrian Hilton, an honorary research fellow at the University of Buckingham and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, told MailOnline today: ‘It’s one thing for protestors to paper over or glue themselves to a national treasure like Constable’s ‘Hay Wain’, but it’s quite a different plane of offence to violate Leonardo’s ‘Last Supper’, which is a masterpiece of Renaissance religious art revered by Christians all over the world. When protest extends to desecration of the sacred, the offence becomes intolerable.'”
Dr. Matthew Landrus of the University of Oxford, who is one of the world’s most respected experts on the work of Leonardo da Vinci had an interesting take on the whole thing, saying, “I think Leonardo would have appreciated the concerns of the climate activists, as well as some of their approaches. He spent most of his life examining the natural world and natural laws, by contrast with the time he contributed to approximately 25-plus paintings.” He didn’t, however, want the protesters to do damage.
Protests aren’t necessarily bad, but doing damage to world-renowned works of art is unnecessary. There are other ways to get one’s point across. Should protesters who damage priceless pieces of art have to pay?