Criminal charges filed against the two environmentalists who threw tomatoes at Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers

The London Metropolitan Police has informed this Saturday that the two environmental activists who on Friday threw tomato soup against the painting ‘The Sunflowers’ by Vicent Van Gogh at the National Gallery in London will be charged with an offense of “criminal damage” to the frame of the painting.

The two women, aged 20 and 21, will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court this Saturday. The same court is investigating another woman for damaging the sign at Scotland Yard’s main headquarters in London, reports Sky News.

The activists planted themselves in front of the artwork and threw two tin cans of tomato soup on it and then stuck their hands to the wall. “Which is worth more, art or life?” one of them asked. “Are you more concerned about protecting a painting than protecting the planet?” she said in a video released by the group Just Stop Oil.

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The museum has reported that the event took place at around 11.00 on Friday (local time) and resulted in the eviction of the room. Police explained on Twitter that several officers arrived “quickly” on the scene and proceeded to the arrest of the two activists who have stained the painting, “for damage and violation of property.”

The National Gallery has clarified that “the painting has not suffered any damage”, although not so the frame, which presents some “minor”. The work, painted in 1888, is one of seven representations of sunflowers that Van Gogh painted in the late nineteenth century to decorate his house in Arles before a visit of his friend Paul Gauguin.

The Just Stop Oil campaign has been mobilizing for two weeks with protests around Parliament and at other key points in London and this is the second time they have attacked works by Van Gogh: in June they stuck to ‘Peach Blossom’, 1989, at the Courtauld Gallery in London. It is also the second action at the National Gallery, after in July two activists stuck to John Constable’s ‘The Hay Wagon’.

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Similarly targeted in protests have been Horatio McCulloch’s ‘My Heart is in the Highlands’ at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and a 500-year-old copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ at the Royal Academy in London. Last weekend, more than a hundred people were arrested as part of the mobilizations promoted by environmental organizations.

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