Police arrested a pair of German protesters who, in an effort to draw attention to the dangers of climate change, threw mashed potatoes on Sunday at a Claude Monet painting that once sold for more than $110 million.
Authorities said they are investigating the protesters, whom police have not named, for property damage and trespassing after the incident at the Barberini Museum in Potsdam, the state capital of Brandenburg, about 20 miles southeast of Berlin.
An “immediate conservation survey” found that “grain piles‘, which Monet painted in 1890 and which sold for $110.7 million at a 2019 auction, no damage suffered from the stunt, as it is behind a layer of protective glass, the museum said: in a statement on Twitter. The painting can be seen again on Wednesday, the museum has added.
A Brandenburg police spokesman did not immediately respond to a question as to why the protesters were being examined for material damage, as the painting was unharmed.
Video posted to the Twitter account of the Last Generation, the German climate group that claimed responsibility, shows two protesters hurling mashed potatoes at the painting, then kneeling in front of it, appearing to glue their hands to the wall.
The stunt was similar to a stunt this month at the National Gallery in London, where two protesters from the British group Just Stop Oil threw tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s painting “Sunflowers,” which sold for nearly $40 million in 1987. to protest. the cost of living in the country. According to the museum, that painting was also behind protective glass and was unharmed.
On Sunday, the German activists referred to the protest in the UK carrying out their own protest.
“We are in a climate catastrophe. And the only thing you fear is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a painting,” said one of the protesters, according to an English subtitled version of the video.
“This painting will be worth nothing if we have to fight for food,” the protester added.
A report released this year by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that urgent action is needed “to secure a livable future” in the face of climate change, which is already driving food and water insecurity. worsening, and weather events such as heat waves, droughts and floods, according to the report.
The Last Generation tweeted a video of the incident on Sunday with the caption: “We’re making #Monet the stage and the audience the audience. When it takes a painting — with #MashedPotatoes or #TomatoSoup thrown on it — for society to let’s remember the fossil fuels course is killing us all: then we’ll give you #MashedPotatoes on a painting!”
Ortrud Westheider, the museum’s director, said in a statement that while she sympathized with the protesters’ concerns, “I am appalled by the means with which they are trying to back up their demands.”
“It is in the works of the Impressionists that we see the intense artistic engagement with nature,” Westheider added, referring to the 19th-century art movement that Monet’s works are part of.
“Grainstacks” is one of a series of 25 paintings in which Monet painted the grain stacks in fields near his home in Giverny, France, in different light and weather conditions, according to the museum.
Born in 1840, Monet was the leading French Impressionist landscape painter, according to the National Gallery.