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U say U : WANNA REVOLUTION when you talk about vandalism you can count me out

Currently the world’s art museums are flooded with environmentalists who choose to take out their aggressively destructive protests onto masterpieces of the art world. See the following chart provided by USA TODAY - 5/30/23. Their tactics include mashed potatoes on Claude Monet, Mona Lisa smeared with cake, soup on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, two activists glued themselves beneath an exhibit of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, scrawled blue markers across Andy Warhol, Artist’s Garden at Giverny by Monet smeared with red paint.

I decided to try to make some sense out of this non-sensible trend and find out what the heck is this all about ? How does vandalising a work of art justify anything ? What did Vincent do to bring this all about ? Why are they taking it out on Vincent ? Is this attention seeking misdirected anger ? All the art was doing was just hanging out on a wall minding its own business.

I found some feedback from the protestors and what they are saying about it :

“ How do you feel when you see something beautiful and priceless being apparently destroyed before your eyes? Do you feel outrage? Good. Where is that feeling when you see the planet being destroyed before our very eyes ? ” (from Art News-10/27/22)

“ During the attack on van Gogh’s Sunflowers in London, Just Stop Oil protesters shouted: “ What is worth more? Art or life? Is it worth more than food? Worth more than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people ? ” (from The Guardian -11/11/22)

There have been studies about the effectiveness of getting things accomplished through the ancient and fine art of protest and free speech. Do protestors need to target the causers of the strife ? There has to be a sensible “action logic” for protestors to have their voices be heard by properly expressing their discontent.

I believe the people at The Atlantic (“The Climate Vandals Are Embarrassing” by Robin Meyer- 10/27/22 ) summed up the problem the best. Here is what I found :

“Regardless of whether you think protests like this are effective or not -- and as a climate scientist, I've spent 30 years on this issue, so ...

my sympathies are with the protesters, of course --

I find it weird to target museums and nonnrofits that help all of us.” Jonathan Foley the executive director of the climate nonprofit Project Drawdown, told me.

“It's true that the targeted paintings were protected by glass panes -- but those panes aren't designed to protect against seeping liquids (or whatever mashed potatoes are), Foley said. They keep out ultraviolet light and dust. Nor are museum-security staff prepared for the challenge of patting down every potential visitor for wayward appetizers, which is what insurance companies will now likely demand, he said. Furthermore, because staging protests at art museums has now happened a few times, he said, every art museum could see its insurance and security costs increase by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Museums may also put paintings -- and even sculptures -- behind the kind of boxlike cases that today protect only a few world-famous works, such as the Mona Lisa. “You're hurting organizations that are often in debt, that are often struggling financially," he said. And he rejected the connection that some academics have made between the art world and the wealth inequality that fuels climate change: “People say, ‘It's fancy art for billionaires.’ But no, the billionaires keep their art in their homes, and it's insured. You're not hurting them by doing this. You're hurting the public." Climate activists and museum workers are “on the same team," he insisted: They're both trying to preserve a priceless intergenerational gift for the public.

“I don't understand, in the name of preserving something we cherish, damaging something we also cherish.”

So we don't know that the protests are effective, and we do know that they’re likely to cause financial problems for many museums. Here I will add my own concern: The activists look so silly…. The soup-and-superglue movement fails an important test of youthful, radical politics: It does not look cool …

The activists' stated rationale -- that they are calling out the public for caring more about art than the climate -- is just as awkward. If you and I were standing next to, say, a tranquilized horse, and you punched the horse, I would probably say, “Stop punching that horse!" I might even try to get you to stop. It would be highly irregular for you to respond, “Why do you care about this horse more than climate change?" The answer is, I do care about climate change, but right now you are punching the horse. Leftists sometimes resent mainstream economists for imagining trade-offs where none actually exist. But that's exactly what they have done here. And yet, the kids mean well, right? When you're thinking about a problem as consequential as climate change, it's tempting to grade for effort. Well, these activists really care about climate change, and it's such an important issue … shouldn't we listen to them ? But the story of the past 40 years, the thing that the activists say they resent, is that politicians have claimed to fight climate change for decades and have met only occasional success. Getting angry about climate change is the easy part ; actually finding ways to cut carbon emissions, to disrupt the fossil-fuel-powered economy that has dominated since Monet, is something else. The soup protests don't make sense, aren't obviously justified by bank-shot social science, and -- worst of all-- they look bad. Humanity is already doing enough to tarnish its precious inheritance. We don’t need extra help.”

Well said.


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