Written by Miriam Cooper
20:07 11 February 2024, updated 20:21 11 February 2024
Climate activists threw soup on a Monet painting at a French museum yesterday after pulling a similar gesture on the Mona Lisa last month.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon, the third largest city in France, said in a statement that the attack on Claude Monet's painting “Spring” occurred at 3.30 pm local time on Saturday.
The museum said that the painting, which dates back to 1872, was protected by glass, but would undergo careful examination and restoration. The museum said it would file a complaint on charges of vandalism, adding that two activists had been arrested.
Riposte Alimentaire (“Anti-Food Attack”) claimed responsibility for the attack in a post on X, with a woman identifying herself as 20-year-old Ilona saying “we have to act now before it's too late.”
The same group, which advocates for a sustainable supply of healthy food for all, also claimed responsibility for the January soup attack on the Louvre's Mona Lisa, which was also behind glass.
“This spring will be the only spring we have left if we don’t fight back,” activists Ilona and Sophie asked passers-by at the museum after yesterday’s soup attack. What will our future artists draw? What will we dream about if there is no longer spring?
The movement on X says: “We love art, but the artists of the future will have nothing to paint on a burning planet.”
In a post about the fall of a Monet painting on the We will respond with firm action.
Riposte Alimentaire activists Sasha, 24, and Marie-Juliet, 63, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Mona Lisa on January 28, asking the shocked crowd after they threw the soup: “What is more important?” Art or the right to healthy and sustainable food?
The group later said the soup dumping marked “the beginning of a civil resistance campaign with a clear demand…for social security with sustainable food.”
Riposte Alimentaire calls itself “a French civil resistance movement aiming to stimulate radical societal change for the environment and society.”
According to its website, Riposte Alimentaire is calling on the French government to ensure food security in the country, including distributing “food cards” worth €150 “per month per person to purchase approved food products.”
The website also explains that the group is an offshoot of a larger climate activist group called “Last Renovation” — part of a campaign that has seen protesters target historical monuments, artworks and commuters across Europe.
The Riposte Alimentaire website says the group was “created as a result of the Last Renovation campaign, which in 2022 and 2023 led actions across France to demand an energy renewal plan for buildings.”
“Thanks to the civil resistance community that achieved the first victory, the recent renewal campaign has shifted to address a more ambitious and systemic topic: social security for sustainable food,” he adds.
But the page also explains that Riposte Alimentaire and Last Generation are part of a larger group of activists, who fall under the “A22” network.
“France and 11 other countries around the world are coordinating their efforts to take the urgent and essential first step, at home, to truly implement the necessary transformation of our societies,” the website says, before listing the other groups.
Activists under the A22 umbrella poured black dye over Rome's famous Trevi Fountain while calling for an end to fossil fuels. Others painted Venice's famous canals green.
Last-generation protesters have also blocked busy roads during rush hour in some of Europe's busiest cities, forcing locals to drag them off the road.
A22 also includes Just Stop Oil, a British group that has carried out similar stunts in the UK, much to the dismay of politicians and the public.
In October 2022, two activists from the group Just Stop Oil made headlines when they sprayed tomato soup onto the glass protecting Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh's painting “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London.
At the time, they complained that art lovers cared more about paintings than about the planet.
The site also lists groups in Sweden, the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Italy, New Zealand, Denmark, Canada and Austria.
In its defense of the Mona Lisa stunt, Riposte Alimentaire pointed to a survey conducted last year of 996 people by polling group Ipsos, which found that one in three French people were not always able to afford enough healthy food for three meals a day.
Member Till van Elst said the group wants the state to allow people to buy selected food items at discounted prices through a specialized Social Security card. Under this scheme, democratic councils will choose which food items will be subsidized.
“We want citizens to really be able to decide what's on their plates,” he told AFP.
Culture Minister Rachida Dati led the criticism of the attack on the soup.
“The Mona Lisa, as our heritage, belongs to future generations. There is no reason that can justify its targeting,” she wrote on X, previously Twitter.
Italy, in particular, witnessed many sensational acts, prompting the country to issue a law imposing fines on activists of up to 50,000 euros due to forms of protest.
Last year, climate activists waded into the waters of Rome's world-famous Trevi Fountain and spilled a black liquid symbolizing oil.
“Our country is dying,” they chanted after unfurling a banner while tourists visiting the memorial took photos, cheered and booed.
While the group said the liquid was made of carbon and would not harm the fountain, Rome's mayor said that regardless, the city would have to dispose of and replace 300,000 liters of water circulating in the Trevi Fountain.
The group also threw paint on Milan's famous La Scala opera house, food on the glass protecting famous paintings, and sprayed the Italian Senate with orange paint.
Its members also blocked traffic, angering motorists.
Many videos showed activists sitting in the middle of busy roads, causing long traffic jams during peak hours in the morning and afternoon.
This has invariably resulted in members of the public taking matters into their own hands, ripping signs from activists' hands and dragging them off the road.
In October, angry motorists kicked and dragged climate protesters who were blocking traffic in Milan.
About 20 “Ultima Generazione” activists – meaning the last generation – blocked the road, angering many drivers who remained stuck in the resulting traffic.
The footage showed a number of activists sitting on a crossing point above the multi-lane road at a busy intersection, causing chaos for drivers during rush hour by linking hands and raising an orange climate emergency sign.
Several drivers, angry at protesters blocking their way, got out of cars and huddled together to run them off the road in shocking scenes captured on video.
Other groups of climate activists have also been active in Italy.
In December, demonstrators from Extinction Rebellion used dye to turn Venice's famous Grand Canal green, to protest what they said at the time was the lack of progress at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.
The group's activists were seen dangling from the Rialto Bridge over the canal with the help of hard hats and climbing ropes, while holding up a banner that read: “COP28: While the government speaks, we are hanging by a thread.”
And in 2022, Italian environmental fanatics got their hands on Botticelli's masterpiece Primavera at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
In the same year, 11 activists threw flour on a car painted by Andy Warhol that was on display at the Fabbrica del Vapor Art Center in Milan.
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