Climate activists spray Klimt paintings in Vienna with black, oily liquid

Gustav Klimt’s painting ‘Death and Life’ is seen after activists of the Last Generation Austria (Last Generation Austria) spilled oil on it November 15, 2022 at the Leopold Museum in Vienna, Austria.

Last generation Austria | via Reuters

Climate activists in Austria on Tuesday attacked a famous painting by artist Gustav Klimt with a black, oily liquid, then taped themselves 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 the Leopold Museum in Vienna to protest their government’s use of fossil fuels.

After spilling the liquid on the undamaged painting, an activist was pushed away by a museum attendant, while another taped his hand to the glass over the painting’s frame.

The group defended the protest, saying in a tweet that they were protesting “oil and gas drilling,” which they called “a death sentence for society.”

In a video of the incident the group posted online, one of the activists can be heard yelling, “We’ve known this problem for 50 years – we have to act now or the planet will be destroyed.”

‚ÄúStop the destruction of fossil fuels. We’re racing into 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 Press Agency reported.

Despite thorough checks at the museum’s entrance, activists managed to get the liquid inside by hiding it in a hot-water bottle under their clothing, the agency reported.

The museum’s restoration team later said that while there was no damage to the painting itself, the damage to the glass and safety frame, as well as the wall and floor, was “obvious and significant,” the APA reported.

Hans-Peter Wipplinger, director of the Leopold Museum, told APA that the concerns of climate activists are justified, “but attacking works of art is definitely the wrong way to achieve the targeted goal of preventing the predicted climate collapse.”

He urged the group to find other ways to air their concerns.

Austria’s Minister of Culture also expressed understanding for the “concerns and also the desperation” of the activists, but criticized their form of protest.

“I don’t think that such actions are effective, because the question arises as to whether they lead to more misunderstanding than to more awareness of the climate catastrophe,” said Andrea Mayer.

“In my view, it is the wrong way to irretrievably damage works of art,” said the minister. “Art and culture are allies in the fight against the climate catastrophe, not opponents.”

The work of Klimt is an Art Nouveau oil painting depicting death on the left and a group of partially nude people embracing on the right. It’s one of the latest works of art to be targeted by climate activists to raise awareness of global warming.

Various activist groups have staged numerous demonstrations in recent months, including blocking roads 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 themselves to the frame of an early copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper at London’s Royal Academy of Arts and to John Constable’s The Hay Wain at the National Gallery.

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