Environmental activists from the group Just Stop Oil stuck to the famous Constable painting The Hay Wain (1821) yesterday at the National Gallery in London, the latest in a campaign targeting major UK museums and galleries. Protesters say they are calling on ‘the government to stop new oil and gas activity [extraction] and that art institutions join them in civil resistance”.
The painting was removed and then rehung in room 34 after a review by the conservation team. “The Hay Wain suffered minor damage to its frame and there was also some disturbance to the surface of the varnish on the painting, which has now been successfully addressed,” a National Gallery spokesperson said. “[The protestors] also covered the painting surface with three sheets of what appeared to be paper with a redesigned version of The Haywain.”
Just Stop Oil said in a statement: “The redesigned version contains a nightmarish scene that shows how oil will destroy our countryside. The river is gone, to be replaced by a road, planes fill the sky, pollution spews cities on the horizon, trees are burned by forest fires, an old car is thrown in front of the mill and the famous cart Hay Wain carries an old Washing Machine.”
Asked if the group would continue to target other museums, a spokesperson for Just Stop Oil added: “We love our history and our culture too much to let it all be destroyed by the collapse of our society. The future of young people is burning before their eyes, and it is the government that is pouring gasoline on the flames. Just Stop Oil supporters will continue to peacefully disrupt whatever it takes until the government agrees to stop all new fossil fuel projects.
Last week, protesters from the environmental campaign group also targeted the Courtauld Gallery in London. “[On 30 June] two young supporters of Just Stop Oil have been arrested at the Courtauld Gallery in London after sticking to the frame of Vincent van Gogh Peach trees in bloom (1889). Louis McKechnie, 21, from Weymouth in Dorset and Emily Brocklebank, 24, from Leeds were detained overnight,” a statement from Just Stop Oil read. The painting is now on display again, a spokesperson said.
On the same day, protesters in Glasgow clung to the frame of Horatio McCulloch’s 19th century landscape, My heart is in the Highlands, at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Tomson Aeolian Harp (1809) by JMW Turner was also targeted in a ‘collage’ protest at the Manchester Art Gallery the same week. Asked if any charges had been made following the protests, the Just Stop Oil spokesman said “it’s an evolving situation at the moment”.