The Reason Activists Threw Mashed Potatoes At A Monet Painting

Not all protestors carry signs; some carry side dishes. Using food as a means of protest has a long and distinguished history, from the famous 1773 Boston Tea Party, which saw British subjects protesting against taxation without representation, to just this month, when protestors threw tomato soup on Van Gogh's Sunflowers in London's National Gallery, per The Guardian. The two young protestors were wearing t-shirts that read "Just Stop Oil," and asked shocked gallery visitors: "What is worth more, art or life?"

The perpetrators of the Van Gogh protest were arrested and charged with criminal damage and aggravated trespass, though the painting itself was unharmed, as it was covered by glass. The public display was intended to draw attention to the effects of climate change. As Phoebe Plummer, one of the two protestors said, "The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of oil crisis, fuel is unaffordable to millions of cold, hungry families. They can't even afford to heat a tin of soup." Given the international media attention the Van Gogh protest garnered, it's not surprising that other protestors have followed suit in pairing high-profile art with a food-related stunt.

A call to action for climate change

On October 23, 2022, two German protestors at the Barberini Museum in Potsdam threw mashed potatoes at French Impressionist Claude Monet's Grainstacks, per NBC News. The 1890 painting, which in 2019 sold for $110 million, was unharmed, as it was protected by glass. The two protestors are affiliated with a German climate activist group called Last Generation (Letzte Generation), which has engaged in other high-profile activities like road blockades and gluing themselves to major works of art, according to Reuters and The Art Newspaper.

Last Generation tweeted a video of the protest, and, according to The Guardian, one of the protestors said, "We are in a climate catastrophe and all you are afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a painting. 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." The group criticizes the German government for failing to take effective action on climate change and situates themselves as the last generation with the possibility of averting the catastrophic collapse of society. NBC said the protestors are being investigated for property damage and trespassing, despite the painting being unscathed.