Climate Activists Stormed the Stage During a Christie’s Auction in New York
Activists are targeting the rich "who continue to spend extravagantly" while others endure the impacts of climate crisis.
Two climate activists belonging to the group Extinction Rebellion stormed the stage during the Impressionist & Modern Works on Paper sale at Christie’s New York on Saturday morning, shouting: “No art on a dead planet!” Auctioneer Tash Perrin was unable to continue taking bids and left the rostrum until security had removed the protestors.
As the pair, who have been identified as Mun Chong and Jim Hicks, were escorted away, Chong continued to exclaim “end fossil fuels now” and “we are in a crisis.” A voice from the room responded “we are,” causing many of the spectators to break out into laughter.
Shortly after the protestors made their presence known, Christie’s livestream of the sale was put on hold. Once back on air, Perrin resumed bidding for lot 511, a sketch by Fernand Léger that eventually fetched $20,160 (including fees).
In a press release issued by Extinction Rebellion NYC, the group outlined its motivations, referring to the record number of extreme weather disasters that took place across the U.S. this year, including floods, wildfires, and hurricanes that each cost at least $1 billion in damages. “There is no choice now but to engage in unconventional means of protest to bring mass attention to the greatest emergency of our time,” the release said. “The science makes clear that we have only a very small window of time in which to end fossil fuels and stop carbon emissions.”
The group also cited two reports pulished by Artnet News about the threat of extreme weather to art and culture specifically. This included an incident in 2017 when a violent storm broke into the Louvre and damaged several important historical paintings, including two canvases by Nicolas Poussin. More recently, the Hamptons Fine Art Fair had to close early after heavy rainfall placed some $400 million of art at risk from water damage or fire.
“This isn’t what I want to be doing, but it’s necessary because we’re in a crisis,” said Hicks, one of the protestors on Saturday. “While the affluent continue to spend extravagantly, the poorest are already experiencing the impacts of climate breakdown. The reality is that even the wealthy are at risk.”
“We confirm that climate activists briefly interrupted our auction on Saturday morning in New York,” said a spokesperson for Christie’s. “The matter was quickly and peacefully resolved thanks to the Christie’s security team and the sale resumed without incident.”
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