Just Stop Oil protests: success or mistake?

Kassidy Taylor


So I guess now we throw soup on paintings to advocate for the environment. At least that is what two members of the Just Stop Oil activist group did. They threw cans of tomato soup on Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London.

Yes, you read that correctly. A couple of activists decided to vandalize an irreplaceable painting to gain an audience to voice their opinions on oil.

A video of the protest quickly went viral on social media and then on every news outlet. These anti-fossil fuel protesters’ stunt definitely gained attention, but not all press is good press. The attention was not focused on their cause but instead on their actions.

These protests are counterproductive and will turn the public against the movement. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, extreme protest’s actions reduce popular support for social movements. Not many will respect or listen to those who appear to harm a unique work of art.

I used the term “appeared” here because although the protests involved vandalizing art, the art pieces suffered minor damage. I applaud the members of this movement for considering the damage they may do and acknowledging that the paintings are behind protective glass.

But this glass is not made to protect the painting from liquids, and the protesters got lucky that it wasn’t damaged afterward.

Not only did the soup land on the painting, but it also landed on the frame. According to a tweet by the gallery, the protest did not harm the painting itself, but the frame did suffer damage.

In similar Just Stop Oil protests worldwide, members glued their hands to the paintings’ frames, which further damaged them. So though these protesters did not intend to cause any actual harm, the harm they did cause needs to be addressed.

The protests harmed the art community and disrespected the artist’s work. Vandalizing art is not an effective way to communicate the urgency of the climate crisis. Just Stop Oil claims they want new fossil fuel licensing and production to halt, yet they are targeting art. This movement should shift its focus to the source.

Oil companies and government officials won’t care about what these activists do to art. Leave art out of this, and protest at the issue’s root. Attack Chevron, Shell or Exxon, not Monet and Van Gogh.