Certainly, our planet is in the grip of severe climate degradation and environmental destruction and in need of immediate action. This makes it no surprise that protests, especially staged by younger generations, are becoming more and more prevalent. The latest such event in the public eye is one staged by the German environmentalist group Letzte Generation (translating to “last generation”) involving a Monet and mashed potatoes and follows in suit with other near-identical demonstrations staged at art galleries across the globe.
Arriving at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany, two individuals from Lezte Generation proceeded to throw a moderate serving of mash onto Meules (translating to “stacks”) by Monet, a vibrant depiction of sunrise emerging and casting colour across a series of haystacks in a field. They then appear to have quickly applied superglue to their hands to affix them to the painting’s wall in an effort to remain there. Mirjam Herrmann, one of the protestors, went on to state to the crowd:
“People are starving, people are freezing, people are dying. 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.”
Almost identical actions have been performed by the UK group Just Stop Oil, both earlier this month at the National Gallery in London as well as several other galleries in England. The group has thrown soups on the likes of Van Gogh, smeared cake on a wax sculpture of King Charles III, and stopped traffic at the famous Abbey Road crossing. While not seeming to be under the same leadership, Letzte Generation and Just Stop Oil seem to be exact iterations of the same plan down to their orange regalia; this might denote a growing presence for this movement globally.
Meules—which is currently on loan from art collector Hasso Plattner which he purchased in 2019 for over $110 million—was unharmed in Letzte Generation’s protest. As actions have progressed, that seems to be a fact the protestors are aware of in their actions. And while their demonstrations in many ways seem juvenile or misdirected, the sentiment behind them is one of utmost importance. Many in the art world seem to be unfazed by these actions, but both the public and officials have shown such disdain for the essentially harmless actions that it points to the question—does a minuscule inconvenience really bother you more than the death of our planet?