Protesters glue their hands to the frame of John Constable's The Hay Wain after first having covered the painting with their own picture, inside the National Gallery, London, Monday July 4, 2022. (Kirsty O'Connor/PA via AP) Credit: Kirsty O'Connor / PA via AP

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Across Europe, climate protesters have attempted to make headlines in recent months by engaging in similar stunts related to beloved works in the art world. The extreme protests by Just Stop Oil, an environmental activist group in the United Kingdom, splattered tomato soup splattered across “Sunflowers” by Vincent van Gogh in London, then hurled liquefied mashed potatoes at “Haystacks,” the most expensive Claude Monet painting in a museum in Potsdam. An activist from Just Stop Oil tried to glue his head to glass covering the “Girl with a Pearl Earring” painting at a museum in The Hague.

Thankfully, the food did not cause any damage to the paintings, but these events shocked a lot of people and made visitors unable to see the masterpieces. Every time, the activists glued a hand or a part of the body to the wall and shouted that the world was in “a climate catastrophe,” echoing the other activists’ central question: “What is worth more, art or life?”

What makes them seek attention so desperately? What activists require is simple: to ramp up public pressure on governments to halt destructive new fossil fuel licensing and production. Even though they succeeded in getting attention, it is obvious that what people would focus on is the events, not the climate problems. If they wanted to protest, they should’ve chosen a different way.

Jayoung Im