Climate activists throw soup at Van Gogh’s ‘Sunshine’ to protest fossil fuel extraction

LONDON – Climate protesters threw soup at Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflower” at London’s National Gallery on Friday to protest fossil fuel extraction, but did not visibly damage the glass-encased painting.

The Just Stop Oil group, which wants the UK government to halt new oil and gas projects, said activists threw two cans of tomato soup over the oil painting, which is one of the Dutch artist’s most iconic works. Two protesters also attached themselves to the gallery wall.

The broth was poured over the glass covering the painting and its gilded frame. The gallery said there was “some damage to the frame, but the painting was not.” This work is one of several variations of The Sunbathers that Van Gogh painted in the late 1880s.

London’s Metropolitan Police said officers arrested two people on suspicion of criminal damage and trespassing.

Specialist officers have now opened them and they have been taken to a central London police station, the statement said.

Just Stop Oil has attracted attention and criticism for targeting artworks in museums. In July, Just Stop Oil activists glued themselves to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper at the Royal Academy of Arts in London and to John Constable’s The Hay Wain at the National Gallery.

A handout photo released by Just Stop Oil shows two protesters throwing canned soup at Vincent Van Gogh's famous 1888 painting at the National Gallery of Art, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022. (Just Stop Oil via AP)

Activists have also blocked bridges and intersections across London during the two weeks of protests.

The wave of protests comes as the British government opens a new round of licenses for oil and gas production in the North Sea, despite criticism from environmentalists and scientists who say the move undermines the country’s commitment to combating climate change.

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