If You’re Going to Vandalize World-Renowned Art, at Least Make It Count

Destroying art is its own genre of political theater. Here are my reviews.

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Screenshot: Just Stop Oil

Environmental protestors were arrested on Friday for tossing tomato soup onto Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers painting at London’s National Gallery. The painting, luckily, was covered by a protective glass panel, and only the frame sustained minimal damage.

The two young women were representing the group named on their t-shirts, Just Stop Oil, whose mission is to halve the U.K.’s usage of and dependence on fossil fuels. “Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?” one of the women asked, as she literally glued her hand to the gallery wall.

Damaging astronomically valuable artworks as protest over political and social issues is nothing new. It’s a surefire way to get people’s attention. You’re certainly going to get a docent to furiously ruffle their beret.

Of course, the risk of protesting within an art museum is that the protest itself might be construed as a work of art itself—and in many ways, it is. What is a protest if not political theater? Having grown up with two parents who taught at art schools, I’ve sat through more than my fair share of lengthy discussions critiquing art of all kinds. So, without further ado, taking what I’ve learned from those formative experiences: Here are my critiques of various art vandalism protests, based on effectiveness, creativity and effort.

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