German Climate Activists Throw Mashed Potatoes At $110 Million Monet Painting


Two climate activists threw mashed potatoes on a glass-covered painting by famed artist Claude Monet hanging in a German museum Sunday, the latest in a string of prized artwork to be attacked with food items to draw attention to climate change.

Key Facts

Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany, said Sunday the activists belonged to an environmentalist group called Letzte Generation (which is German for Last Generation), and threw mashed potatoes on Monet’s 1890 painting “Meules.”

The museum said in a statement a preliminary investigation by a conservation team found the painting “was not damaged in any way” because the work is protected by glass.

Video clips posted to social media by Letzte Generation show two individuals throwing a pot of mashed potatoes onto the painting and gluing themselves to the wall below the frame as confused visitors look on.

The two activists, which Letzte Generation identified only as Mirjam and Benjamin, were taken to jail, the group said in a tweet.

Crucial Quote

“We are in a climate catastrophe and all you are afraid of is tomato soup?” one of the activists said in a clip posted by Letze Generation, referencing a painting by Vincent Van Gogh that was attacked with a can of tomato soup by activists last week in London. “Science tells us we won’t be able to feed our families by 2050. Does it take mashed potatoes on a painting to make you listen?”

Chief Critic

Art world experts have questioned how throwing food at paintings in public museums will help solve climate change. “There are hundreds of ways to achieve attention for the climate problems. This should not be one of them,” Arthur Brand, a well-known Dutch art crime investigator, said on Twitter Sunday.

Big Number

$110.7 million. That’s how much “Meules” fetched in 2019 at Sotheby’s, making it the most expensive Monet painting ever sold at auction. It was reportedly purchased by German billionaire Hasso Plattner and has been on display at Museum Barberini since September 2020.

Key Background

“Meules” is the latest artwork to draw climate activists’ attention. Last week, two young activists hurled a can of tomato soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London (that painting also has a glass covering). The two were part of the British group Just Stop Oil, which has had members stage similar protests across the U.K., including gluing themselves to another Van Gogh painting in London in June. In July, climate activists in Italy glued themselves to Sandro Botticelli’s 540-year-old painting “Primavera” at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. In May, a man threw cake on Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” and claimed the action was motivated by climate change and “people who are destroying the planet” as security dragged him out of the Louvre Museum in Paris. None of the works of art have been reported to be hurt by the protests, though some frames suffered damage, according to museums.

Further Reading

Activists Glue Themselves To A Van Gogh Painting In Climate Change Protest (Forbes)

‘Mona Lisa’ Attacked With Cake By Climate Change Protester (Forbes)