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Just Stop Oil activists smash Velázquez painting frame 

Nathan Hughes Hamilton | Flickr

On Nov. 6th, two activists were arrested at the National Gallery in London for damaging the glass cover on a Diego Velázquez painting. The protesters sported Just Stop Oilshirts as they demanded for a halt on new fossil fuel licenses. 

Just Stop Oil is an environmentalist coalition committed to stopping the UK government from supplying “new licenses and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.” It receives most of its funding from the Climate Emergency Fund and public donations.

This is not the first time Velázquez’s painting “Rokeby Venus” has undergone political vandalism. British suffragette Mary Raleigh Richardson made headlines when she slashed it nearly a century earlier in 1914. Motivated by the suffragette movement’s call for women’s voting rights, Richard carried out the act in protest to the government’s indifference to women’s demands. 

Destroying the artwork was Richard’s response to the government’s failure to listen to the peaceful pleas of the suffrage movement. At the time, the act was condemned by many because it violated the artistic and institutional boundaries of the time.

Just Stop Oil uses nonviolent civil resistance tactics like marches, sit-ins, disruption of cultural events and smashing 17th-century oil paintings.

This isn’t the first piece of art the group has violated. At the same gallery, two supporters threw tomato soup on Vincent Van Gogh’s 1888 “Sunflowers” last year. 

The demonstration garnered a lot of attention because the painting didn’t have a protective covering at that time. This resulted in minor damage to the painting. They have also notably disrupted musicals like Les Miserables and sporting events like the Wimbledon tennis championships.

Many critics are reprimanding those who vandalize art as a form of protest. They argued that art is an expression of humanity and should be treated with appreciation. 

Just Stop Oil has planned daily slow marches in London for the month of November. The environmentalist group intends to keep their motto, “Deeds, not words.”

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    MarcusDec 7, 2023 at 12:16 pm

    Excellent piece!! Credit to this young writer!