Jacqui Palumbo, CNN
A group of climate activists who have disrupted major galleries this week to send a message to the UK government have struck again — this time at the Royal Academy of Art in London.
On Tuesday morning, demonstrators from Just Stop Oil (JSO) glued themselves to a frame housing a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” that is believed to have been painted by two pupils of the Italian Renaissance master. The activists also spray-painted the demand “No New Oil” in white underneath the painting, a spokesperson for the gallery confirmed to CNN.
Leonardo originally created “The Last Supper,” which depicts the moment Jesus tells his 12 disciples that he will be betrayed by one of them, as a fresco in Milan’s Santa Maria delle Grazie church between 1495 and 1497. The copy of the painting targeted by the demonstrators, credited to Giampietrino and Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, was painted around 15 years later.
Just Stop Oil protesters are calling for the UK government to block licenses for future oil and gas extraction and warning of a grim future if action is not taken to slow the effects of climate change.
According to The Independent, a protester at the gallery likened the government to Jesus’ betrayer Judas, and said that Just Stop Oil had selected this “magnificent beautiful painting” because the future is “bleaker than ever.”
Four protesters remained for more than three hours in the room where the painting is housed, which was closed to the public because of the demonstration, before they were removed by police, according to the gallery. The spokesperson added that the condition of the painting is being assessed by Royal Academy conservators.
The protest is the fifth time the group’s members have attached themselves to a famous artwork in their series of demonstrations this past week. Previous incidents involved a work by Vincent Van Gogh at London’s Courtauld Gallery and a JMW Turner painting at Manchester Art Gallery. Just Stop Oil also disrupted Formula 1’s British Grand Prix by sitting on the Silverstone racetrack on Sunday.
CNN reported that the most recent protest took place Monday at London’s National Gallery, where activists covered John Constable’s famous landscape painting “The Hay Wain” with a modified version of the image before gluing their hands to the frame. Their vision of the painting, which depicts a rural Suffolk scene, replaced a river with a paved road and included factory smokestacks and airplanes overhead. The group has warned that the natural beauty of some of the landscapes they have chosen is at dire risk due to climate change.
Just Stop Oil identified the demonstrators at The National Gallery as students Hannah Hunt and Eben Lazarus. London’s Metropolitan Police previously confirmed to CNN that two people had been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and were later released on bail pending further inquiries.
After the latest protest at the Royal Academy of Art, Just Stop Oil released a statement identifying some of the protestors. Lucy Porter, a 47-year-old former teacher, said, “We have no time left, to say that we do is a lie. We must halt all new oil and gas right now, we will stop disrupting art institutions as soon as the government makes a meaningful statement to do so. Until then, the disruption will continue so that young people know we are doing all we can for them. There is nothing I would rather be doing.”
Another member, 21-year-old art student Jessica Agar, made an additional demand for art institutions to join their cause.
“If the directors of this gallery really believe that art has the power to change the world then I demand that they claim that power, close and refuse to open until the government commits to no new oil,” she said.
The Royal Academy of Art did not comment on Agar’s demand to close the gallery.
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