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Climate activists throw mashed potatoes on Monet painting to protest fossil fuel extraction

Activists throw mashed potatoes on painting
Climate activists throw mashed potatoes on a Monet painting to protest fossil fuel extraction 01:04

Two climate activists threw mashed potatoes at Claude Monet's "Les Meules" and then glued themselves underneath the painting on Sunday. Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany said on Twitter that the painting was not damaged during the incident.

Last Generation, a climate activist group based in Germany, claimed responsibility for the action on Twitter. The group posted video of the incident, showing the activists wearing high-visibility orange vests and flinging mashed potatoes on the work before gluing themselves to the wall beneath the painting.

"If it takes a painting – with #MashedPotatoes or #TomatoSoup thrown at it – to make society remember that the fossil fuel course is killing us all: Then we'll give you #MashedPotatoes on a painting!" the group tweeted.  

"We are in a climate catastrophe, and all you're afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a painting," one of the activists said, according to English subtitles on the video. 

"You know what I'm afraid of? I'm afraid because science tells us that we won't be able to feed our families in 2050. ... This painting is not going to be worth anything if we have to fight over food."

The mention of tomato soup appears to reference a similar climate protest from earlier this month, when activists from the group Just Stop Oil threw tomato soup on Vincent van Gogh's "The Sunflowers" at the National Gallery in London. The gallery said that the painting was covered by glass, and did not sustain damage. The painting was back on display six hours after the incident, according to BBC News.

Last Generation describes itself on its website as "the last generation that can still prevent society from collapsing. Facing this reality, we accept high fees, criminal charges and deprivation of liberty undaunted."

"We are no longer willing to accept this crime against humanity without resistance," the website reads. "We will not wait while one state after another collapses. In the end, we are all in danger. We are the will to survive of this society."

In June, two activists from Just Stop Oil also glued themselves to the frame of "Peach Trees in Blossom," a van Gogh painting that was being displayed at London's Courtauld Gallery. The group said that the painting was intentionally targeted because Provence, the French region depicted in the work, suffered along with much of southern Europe through record heat and drought over the summer.

Museum Barberini tweeted that "Les Meules" would return to its public exhibition space on Wednesday, Oct. 26. 

A statement from the museum's director, Ortrud Westheider, read, "While I understand the activists' urgent concern in the face of the climate catastrophe, I am shocked by the means with which they are trying to lend weight to their demands."

"It is in the works of the Impressionists that we see the intense artistic engagement with nature. The many landscape paintings in the Hasso Plattner Collection can inspire visitors to reflect on and question their relationship to the environment," Westheider added.

"Les Meules" is commonly known in English as "Grainstacks." The painting dates back to 1890, according to the museum, and is part of a series of works by van Gogh depicting stacks of wheat at various times of the year and in different lighting. The painting is on a lasting loan from the Hasso Plattner Foundation, and part of the museum's permanent collection of works.

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