Oil protesters appear in court after throwing soup at Van Gogh painting

‘Just Stop Oil’ activists stick their hands to the wall after throwing soup at van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ painting at the National Gallery in London, Britain October 14, 2022.

Just stop oil | Reuters

The climate activists who threw soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s famous ‘Sunflowers’ painting on Saturday appeared in a London court charged with criminal damages, multiple news outlets reported.

The two women were demonstrating as part of the campaign group Just Stop Oil, and they pleaded not guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for two brief hearings.

After throwing two cans of tomato soup at Van Gogh’s oil painting on Friday, protesters also stuck to the gallery wall. They were removed by specialists and taken into custody, according to the London Metropolitan Police.

A National Gallery spokesperson confirmed there was no damage to the painting, which is one of the iconic versions of ‘Sunflowers’ that Van Gogh painted in the late 1880s. estimated at $80.99 million.

“There is some minor damage to the frame but the paint is intact,” the spokesperson told CNBC. The painting was covered in glass, and it was cleaned and returned to the National Gallery on Friday afternoon.

Just Stop Oil has been protesting in London for two weeks and the group said in a press release that its actions were “in response to government inaction in the face of the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis”.

“Which is worth more, art or life? Is it worth more than food? Is it worth more than justice? Are you more concerned with protecting a painting or protecting our planet and people?” one activist said in a video of the event.

Just Stop Oil has faced widespread criticism from environmental groups and opposition Labor Party politicians following the protest.

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