Police arrested two German protesters who, in a bid to draw attention to the dangers of climate change, threw mashed potatoes at a Claude Monet painting on Sunday that had sold more than 110 millions of dollars.
Authorities said they were investigating the protesters, whom police did not name, for property damage and trespassing after the incident at the Barberini Museum in Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg state, about 20 miles north. southeast of Berlin.
An “immediate preservation investigation” revealed that “Cereal wheels“, which Monet painted in 1890 and which sold for $110.7 million at an auction in 2019, suffered no damage from the waterfall, as it is behind a layer of protective glass, says the museum in a statement on Twitter. The painting will be exhibited again by Wednesday, the added museum.
A Brandenburg police spokesman did not immediately respond to a question about why the protesters were being investigated for property damage, given that the painting was unharmed.
Video posted on the Twitter account of Last Generation, the German climate group that claimed responsibility, shows two protesters throwing mashed potatoes at the board, then kneeling in front of it and appearing to stick their hands to the wall.
The waterfall looked like a this month at the National Gallery in London, where two protesters from Britain’s Just Stop Oil group threw what appeared to be tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ painting, which sold for nearly $40 million in 1987, to protest against the cost of living crisis. That painting was also behind protective glass and unscathed, according to the museum.
On Sunday, German activists referenced the British protest as they led theirs.
“We are in a climate catastrophe. And all you fear is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a chalkboard,” one of the protesters says, according to a captioned version in English of the video.
“This painting will be worth nothing if we have to fight for food,” adds the protester.
A report published this year by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that urgent action is needed “to ensure a livable future” in the face of climate change, which is already exacerbating food and water insecurity, and weather phenomena such as heat waves, droughts and floods, according to the report.
The Last Generation tweeted a video of the incident on Sunday with the caption: “We’re making this #Monet the stage and the audience the audience. If it takes a painting – with #MashedPotatoes or #TomatoSoup thrown on it – for the society remember that the Fossil Fuel Course is killing us all: so we’ll give you #MashedPotatoes on a painting!”
Ortrud Westheider, the museum’s director, said in a statement that while she understands the protesters’ concerns, “I am shocked by the ways in which they are trying to lend weight to their demands.”
“It is in the works of the Impressionists that we see the intense artistic engagement with nature,” Westheider added, referring to the 19th century art movement of which Monet’s works are a part.
“Grainstacks” is one of a series of 25 paintings in which Monet depicted grain stacks in fields near his home in Giverny, France, painting them in different light and weather conditions, depending on the museum.
Born in 1840, Monet was the first French impressionist landscape painter, according to the National Gallery.