Climate Protestors Glued Themselves to a Van Gogh Painting at the Courtauld, Demanding That Museums Join Their ‘Civil Resistance’

The incident comes just one day after demonstrators from the same group attached themselves to a Horatio McCulloch artwork in Glasgow.  

Members of the environmental protest group Just Stop Oil glued to Vincent van Gogh’s Peach Trees in Blossom (1889). Photo courtesy of Just Stop Oil.

A pair of climate activists glued themselves to a Vincent van Gogh painting in a London museum today, one day after other members from the group did the same thing to a Horatio McCulloch artwork in Glasgow. 

The idea, according to the protestors, was to urge “art institutions to join them in civil resistance.” 

This afternoon, 21-year-old Louis McKechnie from Dorset and 24-year-old ​​Emily Brocklebank from Leeds took a bottle of glue to an upper floor of the Courtauld Gallery in the British capital and adhered their palms to the frame of Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 landscape, Peach Trees in Blossom. Both protestors belong to Just Stop Oil, a U.K.-based environmental protest group.

“It is immoral for cultural institutions to stand by and watch whilst our society descends into collapse,” McKechnie said in a statement shared by the group. “Galleries should close. Directors of art institutions should be calling on the government to stop all new oil and gas projects immediately.”

“We are either in resistance or we are complicit,” he added.

According to Just Stop Oil, van Gogh’s bucolic landscape was targeted because the region it depicts in Provence may soon experience severe drought.

Representatives from the Courtauld Gallery did not immediately respond to Artnet News’s email seeking more information about the incident, including whether the painting was damaged. 

Footage shared by the protest group on social media showed London police climbing the Courtauld’s stairs, presumably to apprehend the demonstrators.

“A piece of art receives this protection and state concern,” read a caption accompanying the video. “Whilst peoples in Ethiopia, Somalia, India, Pakistan, the USA, Australia (to name a few) who are suffering from climate change NOW get ignored and left.”

“What’s more important? This painting? Or a future?!”

A similar scene took place yesterday afternoon at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow as two Just Stop Oil demonstrators attached themselves to the frame of McCulloch’s 19th-century landscape, My Heart’s in the Highlands. Three other members spray-painted the group’s name in bright orange on the walls of the institution.

The five protestors, all of whom are under the age of 31, were taken into custody by Scottish police. Just Stop Oil shared a video of one of them being wheeled out of the museum and into a police van by uniformed officers as she pleaded with onlookers. 

“I shouldn’t be doing this,” the protestor yelled. “I shouldn’t be here being put into a police van when I’m just begging the government to give my generation a future.”

“The art world is complicit. The art world is responsible,” she continued while being ushered into the vehicle. “Every sector of our culture is responsible. We cannot continue with business as usual.” 

At the recommendation of police, the museum promptly closed after the protestors were gone. 

The museum did not respond to Artnet News’s email, but a spokesperson for Glasgow Life, the organization that runs the Kelvingrove museum, told the Evening Standard that “security and conservation teams are currently working with the police to ascertain the extent of any damage. We will update on reopening as soon as possible.”

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.