Gustav Klimt’s “Tod und Leben” painting is seen after Last Generation Austria (Letzte Generation Oesterreich) activists spill oil on it at the Leopold Museum in Vienna, Austria, November 15, 2022.
Letzte Generation Oesterreich | through Reuters
Climate activists in Austria attacked a famous painting by artist Gustav Klimt on Tuesday with a black, oily liquid, and one of them then glued itself to glass to protect the painting’s frame.
Members of the group Last Generation Austria tweeted that they had targeted the 1915 painting “Death and Life” in Vienna’s Leopold Museum to protest their government’s use of fossil energy.
After pouring the liquid onto the painting, which was undamaged, one activist was pushed away by a museum guard, while another glued his hand to the glass over the painting’s frame.
The group defended the protest, saying in a tweet they were protesting “oil and gas drilling,” which they called “a death sentence for society.”
In a video of the incident, which the group posted online, one of the activists can be heard shouting: “We’ve known about the problem for 50 years – we finally have to act or the planet will be destroyed.”
“Stop the destruction of fossil fuels. We are racing towards climate hell,” he added.
After the attack, police arrived at the museum and the black liquid was quickly removed from the glass protecting the painting, the Austrian news agency reported.
Despite thorough checks at the entrance to the museum, the activists managed to get the liquid inside by hiding it in a hot water bottle under their clothing, the agency reports.
The museum’s restoration team later said that while the painting itself was not damaged, the damage to the glass and safety frame, as well as the wall and floor, was “obvious and significant,” APA reported.
Hans-Peter Wipplinger, the director of the Leopold Museum, told APA that the climate activists’ concerns were justified, “but attacking works of art is definitely the wrong way to achieve the intended goal of preventing the predicted climate collapse. “
He appealed to the group to find other ways to express their concerns.
Austria’s culture minister also expressed understanding for the activists’ “worries and also desperation”, but criticized their form of protest.
“I don’t believe actions like this are targeted, because the question arises whether they don’t lead to more misunderstanding than awareness of the climate catastrophe,” said Andrea Mayer.
“In my opinion, accepting the risk of irreversible damage to works of art is the wrong way to go,” the minister added. “Art and culture are allies in the fight against climate disasters, not opponents.”
Klimt’s work is an Art Nouveau style oil painting with death on the left and a group of half-naked hugging people on the right. It is one of the latest works of art that climate activists have targeted to draw attention to global warming.
Various activist groups have staged numerous demonstrations in recent months, including blocking streets and throwing mashed potatoes at a Claude Monet painting in Germany.
British group Just Stop Oil threw tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at London’s National Gallery last month.
Just Stop Oil activists also glued to the frame an early copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, and John Constable’s “The Hay Wain” at the National Gallery.