Climate Activists Throw ‘Black, Oily Liquid’ at a Klimt Painting in Vienna in Second Attack in the City in a Week

"Death and Life" (1915) was targeted by activists who managed to smuggle the liquid into the building despite heightened security at the museum.

Two activists for Letzte Generation (Last Generation) throw "a black, oily liquid" at a painting by Klimt at the Leopold Museum in Vienna on November 15, 2022. Photo courtesy of Letzte Generation Österreich.

Klimt’s Death and Life (1915) is the latest masterpiece to be targeted by climate activists. This morning, the painting at the Leopold Museum in Vienna was pelted with what protestors have described as a “black, oily liquid.”

The work and its frame were both behind protective glass and are unharmed. However, according to the Austria Press Agency (APA), restorers at the museum have reported “evident and significant” damage to this glass as well as to the surrounding wall and floor. 

Immediately after the liquid was thrown, one protestor glued himself to the glass, while the other was pushed away from the painting by a security guard. Police arrived at the scene and the black liquid was quickly removed. 

The demonstration was organized by Letzte Generation (Last Generation) in response to the Austrian government’s continued use of oil and gas.

“Stop the fossil fuel destruction,” one protestor proclaimed. “We are racing towards a climate hell.”  

The group is also calling for the national speed limit to be lowered to 100km/h, which it claims will save 460 million tons of CO2 each year and improve air quality.

“Attacking works of art is definitely the wrong way to implement the targeted goal of preventing the predicted climate collapse,” said the museum’s director, Hans-Peter Wipplinger. 

In response to the latest attack, Austria’s culture minister Andrea Mayer said: “I do not believe that actions like these are purposeful, because the question arises whether they do not rather lead to more lack of understanding than to more awareness of the climate catastrophe.”

She added: “Art and culture are allies in the fight against climate catastrophe, not adversaries.”

A sign informs people waiting to enter the Leopold art museum that no bags are allowed inside due to recent attacks on works of art at European museums. Photo by Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images.

The APA says that although the museum had heightened security protocols at its entrance, the liquid was carried into the building inside a hot water bottle worn beneath one of the activist’s clothes. 

Several museum security experts spoke to Artnet News about various measures that could be used to combat these types of attacks, including conducting bag checks and providing special training for staff. 

This is the second climate protest to take place in Austria within the past week. On Thursday, two activists, also from Last Generation, glued themselves to the base of a dinosaur skeleton at the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

It has been a month since the recent spate of climate actions in museums began on October 14, when tomato soup was thrown at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the National Gallery in London.

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