Climate Activists Throw Mashed Potatoes on Monet Painting

Two climate activists threw mashed potatoes on a glass-covered painting by the celebrated French Impressionist Claude Monet on Sunday inside a German museum, the latest art attack intended to draw attention to climate change.

Videos show the activists dousing one of the artist’s works, “Grainstacks,” with a thick yellow substance that covered the painting’s warm red hues. The oil on canvas is one of 25 paintings the artist made around 1890 of stacks of hay in the fields near his house in Giverny, France.

The activists, a man and a woman, each glued a hand to the wall by the painting. Then, the woman shouted in German that the world was in “a climate catastrophe, and all you are afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes in a painting,” referring to a similar attack this month in London by activists who threw cans of tomato soup on a painting by Vincent van Gogh. In videos posted online, liquid can be seen dripping from the painting’s frame as one of the activists speaks.

The Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany, which had “Grainstacks” on exhibit, said in a statement that the activists were associated with Last Generation, an advocacy group devoted to climate change issues.

The museum said that the food did not cause any damage to the piece, which sold for nearly $111 million in 2019. The painting will be on display again by Wednesday, the museum added.

Last Generation identified the woman who attacked the painting as Mirjam Herrmann, 25. The group identified the other activist as Benjamin but did not provide a surname. They were taken to jail on Sunday, according to a Twitter post from Last Generation, which did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

In a post on Last Generation’s website promoting its stunt in Germany, the group mentioned the attack on the van Gogh painting “Sunflowers,” echoing the other activists’ central question: “What is worth more, art or life?”

The latest art attack captured the attention of many people online, with some expressing concern for the painting and others describing the form of protest as misguided. But Last Generation noted on its website that while the painting had not been damaged, storms, floods and droughts worsened by climate change were already having real-world consequences.

Across Europe, climate protesters have sought to capture headlines in recent months by engaging in similar stunts tied to beloved pieces in the art world. In Britain, activists glued themselves to about a half-dozen masterpieces, including a 16th-century copy of “The Last Supper” at the Royal Academy, a major art museum in London. And in Italy, activists glued themselves to a sculpture held in the Vatican and to works in the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence.

The activists appear to be targeting artworks with global resonance, hoping that notable names and paintings will garner more publicity.

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