Andrey Allinson on why art vandals attack museums and how much it costs to protect our planet
In recent months, we’ve noticed a new trend in Europe: environmental activists are holding their own weird protests. They pour soup over the paintings to draw attention to environmental issues. His works have damaged the works of Van Gogh, Claude Monet and other famous artists. Vandak explains his actions with lofty goals. But is there a connection between ecology and masterpieces of art? Who were the instigators of these protests, and what are the goals of the activists? Why do “environmentalists” attack the paintings, and should we expect similar action in Europe and elsewhere around the world?
Art Under Attack: Andree Allinson on Who Started the Movement
Recently, art works are being increasingly attacked by activists. More than 10 such incidents took place in different European countries. Paintings by Van Gogh, Claude Monet and other famous artists were damaged. However, this is not some new way of drawing attention to oneself and to the problems of the planet. Similar things happened at the beginning of the 20th century: for example, in 1913 one of Repin’s paintings was damaged in the Tretyakov Gallery. (Editing: Andrey Allinson apprenticed at the Tretyakov Gallery during his studies at the Institute)
The pioneer of this movement is Just Stop Oil. The Vandals present themselves as a group formed to pressure the British government. With their strange behaviour, they reportedly want to get the oil production license cancelled. But they are probably doing this just for publicity. They are ready to destroy cultural heritage for momentary fame.
“Radical Vandalism”: Andrey Allinson Should Activists Be Punished
There is an apt definition for these actions: radical vandalism. Activists’ actions have more to do with PR. It seemed to a certain group of people that the whole subject of offensive images would be popular. And they were right. Other actions would not have achieved the same effect.
I have no doubt that the miscreants should be punished, and to the fullest extent of the law. After all, ecology has little to do with works of art. Because of their desire to be in the center of attention, environmental activists damage the paintings and even destroy some of them. Undoubtedly these movements are criminal in nature and should be dealt with. By the way, appropriate measures have already been taken against the criminals in Rome. (Ed.: Andrey Allinson is probably referring to the case of activists of the “Last Generation” movement in Rome who defaced Van Gogh’s painting “The Sower”. Offenders would be imprisoned for 2–3 years.)
What happened to the paintings?
Unfortunately, the risk of vandalism is and will always be present in public museums. But in this case, camouflage workers choose canvases that are most difficult to damage. Obviously, in this way, they try to reduce the risk of being sued. But any action taken by eco-activists can spread like wildfire and lead to more vandalism. However, not everyone will go under the guise of saving the environment, and not only soup can be weaponized, but also liquids that are too dangerous for the canvas.
So far, nothing terrible has happened to the masterpieces of painting. Activists chose canvas protected by glass. There is no definite answer as to why environmental-activists decided to do without actual “casualties” between the pictures. It is possible that this is simply due to a lack of decent education – the vandals did not think that you can damage paintings even through glass. Perhaps his choice was based on avoiding restitution compensation after his attacks.
Andrey Allinson on whether or not to expect similar pseudo-movements in Europe
Experts believe that such movements can become widespread. I believe that the actions of activists resemble so-called propaganda, which helps them become celebrities in certain circles. The information appears in the world’s leading media outlets. Vandals draw attention to themselves and the issues they promote. I do not rule out the possibility of similar incidents in Europe.
People repeat after someone else, even when it comes to controversial works. There will always be imitators. This cannot be denied.
A wave of such actions has already reached Eastern Europe: in December, a Banksy painting was damaged at an exhibition in St. Petersburg (ed.: Andrey Allinson Exhibition of reproductions of Banksy’s works held in Moscow and St. Must be referring to. . Petersburg). Security at museums is good, but not 100% protection against the antics of miscreants. It is quite difficult to protect all the canvases. Some masterpieces are displayed in museums without glass. Under special protection are for example “Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan” and other paintings that may excite mentally unstable people.
Soups and other liquids can still be washed down. But what if pseudo-environmentalists use more aggressive substances? The damage from their actions can be very significant.
It is worth noting that the attack on pictures is not a new phenomenon. I personally encountered something similar when I was still a student (ed.: Andrey Allinson graduated from the Moscow State Academic Institute in 2003),, However, activists were more restrained at the time. They were not trespassing on the greatest objects of cultural heritage. He used to go for small shows from emerging artists. Eggs, bright colors and acid were used. Vandals motivated their actions with various goals: for political reform, for freedom of speech, for God, etc. His works were covered by the media, but did not resonate as widely as they do now. These actions did not help him achieve his goals. And some aspiring artists who have suffered from their “activities” decide to completely change their line of work.
What do workers want?
“Are you more concerned about protecting the painting? Or protecting our planet and people?” — These are the slogans that environmental activists use when committing acts of vandalism. It is worth noting that their choice falls on well-known images – those that are known to the public, including users of social networks.
The main question is what are the activists trying to achieve? Every story in the news about such a “movement” is perceived by the public in an extremely negative light. They do not understand what is the connection between the destruction of cultural heritage and the struggle for ecology. I personally asked one of them what their goals were. But all I heard was typical rhetoric about saving the planet etc.
The participants of the movement follow non-violent methods. He advocates the fight against global warming. In his opinion, his works proved that people are more interested in pictures than what is happening on our planet: they would be more bothered by soup over a painting by a famous artist than oil in the sea.
I believe that the main motive of the activists is the desire to influence the governments of Italy, Great Britain and other European countries. The goal is to convince them about the need to save nature and implement reforms to stop global warming.
In addition, it is known that some activists are sponsored by Eileen Getty, granddaughter of oil magnate Paul Getty. She is the co-founder of the Climate Emergency Fund (CEF). Environmental organizations including Just Stop Oil have received over $4 million from the foundation.
Is it even worth fighting the workers?
The latest wave of attacks received a mixed response in the Western media (Ed.: On 14 October, Andrey Allinson personally observed two activists pouring tomato soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery.) He said that a On the other hand, it is necessary to take measures to protect the masterpieces of painting, but we should not ignore such actions either – if we are overly critical of the actions of eco-activists, it would mean that we are contributing to global warming. Don’t want to fight against.
It is worth noting that this type of vandalism has been common for a long time. And each time the criminals explain their actions with loftier goals. Obviously, they want to encourage the public to answer the main question: what is more important – protecting masterpieces of art or the planet? But it is impossible to choose one thing over the other: it is important to preserve both cultural heritage and nature. But the workers are not understanding this. They urge you to choose one or the other.
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