November 2, 2022
‘Shocking’ act by climate activists © APA/ANP/LEX VAN LIESHOUT
After a sticker attack on Vermeer’s world-famous painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, three climate activists in the Netherlands were sentenced to two months in prison. The Hague court spoke of a “shocking” act when the verdict was announced on Wednesday, the Dutch news agency ANP reported. Although the valuable painting was intact, the frame and back of the image were damaged.
The three men glued themselves to the protective pane of the painting on display at the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague last week and smeared the image with tomato sauce. Climate activists have organized a whole series of actions and lockdowns in recent months, targeting famous works of art, among other things.
At the National Gallery in London, they covered Vincent van Gogh’s masterpiece Sunflowers with tomato soup, while in the German city of Potsdam, activists threw mashed potatoes on a work by Impressionist Claude Monet. In August, two activists glued themselves to a work by Lucas Cranach the Elder in Berlin’s Picture Gallery and, in Dresden, to Raphael’s world-famous Sistine Madonna.
According to German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, prison sentences for climate activists would also be possible in certain cases. “Anyone who plays artwork can be sued for property damage. A block can be punished as coercion. And if the ambulances are slowed down, criminal liability for negligent bodily harm can also be considered,” he told the Bild newspaper. In Austria, it would be similar if the occasion arose.
So far, however, there have been almost no criminal charges in Vienna during the sticker protests, according to police when questioned by the APA. Because in the federal capital the blockades – as in Berlin – did not bring serious problems to the emergency services. And no damage to the artwork has been done yet. So far, it’s been mostly about administrative violations.
It wasn’t until September 15 that activists wanted to cling to an exhibit at the Natural History Museum. However, this was stopped at the last moment. Three people are under investigation on suspicion of attempted property damage or attempted serious property damage. All three were reported in general. The case is already being processed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
In Germany, the Federal Minister of Justice has now emphasized: “In addition to fines, the laws also provide for imprisonment in certain cases.” These laws must also be enforced. German Green politician Renate Künast said this form of protest led to a “dead end”. Künast continues: “If the crux of the problem is no longer discussed, but only the question ‘is this a legitimate protest’ – the same with the subject of photos and museums,” she told RBB Inforradi. “I don’t think it makes sense. It’s a dead end.”