At Large  July 5, 2022  Anna Claire Mauney

Climate Activists Glue Hands to Famous Paintings Across UK 

Photo by Just Stop Oil.

July 5, 2022 protest in front of The Last Supper at the Royal Academy. Photo by Just Stop Oil.

Just as the latest G7 summit came to an end this June, unhappy climate activists began to stage attention-grabbing protests across the UK.

These ongoing demonstrations so far consist of the same general series of actions. Members of the group Just Stop Oil enter a gallery or museum, glue their hands to the frame of a famous painting, and speak to crowds about their fears for humanity’s future on this planet as they relate to climate change.

The young duo assigned to one of the group’s most famous targets—Van Gogh’s Peach Trees in Blossom (1889)—have been of particular interest in the subsequent media storm.

Photo by Just Stop Oil.

McKechnie and Brocklebank are pictured with hands glued to the frame of Van Gogh’s Peach Trees in Blossom.

On June 30, twenty-one-year-old Louis McKechnie and twenty-four-year-old Emily Brocklebank stood with hands attached to either side of the painting’s frame in Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House in London.

In a statement on the group’s website, McKechnie called on leaders within the art world to take action. "Directors of art institutions should be calling on the government to stop all new oil and gas projects immediately," he said, adding, "We are either in resistance or we are complicit."

Horatio McCulloch, My heart's in the Highlands, 1860. Oil on canvas. Bequeathed by Mrs Janet Rodger, 1901. Photo by Glasgow Life Museums.
Bequeathed by Mrs Janet Rodger, 1901. Photo by Glasgow Life Museums.

Horatio McCulloch, My heart's in the Highlands, 1860. Oil on canvas.

JMW Turner, Tomson’s Aeolian Harp, 1809. Oil on canvas. Gift from HM Treasury. 1979. Photo by Manchester Art Gallery.
Gift from HM Treasury. 1979. Photo by Manchester Art Gallery.

JMW Turner, Tomson’s Aeolian Harp, 1809. Oil on canvas.

Other paintings targeted in these protests include, among a growing list of others, works by Horatio McCulloch and JMW Turner. Some protesters have also spraypainted the group's logo and calls to action on the walls and floors of their assigned art institutions.

During the London protest on June 30, McKechnie apologized to onlookers. “Sorry everybody, we don’t want to be doing this," he explained, adding, “We’re here glued to this painting, this beautiful painting, because we’re terrified for our future.”

Photo by Just Stop Oil.

Protesters at Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum on June 29.

According to EuroNews, Brocklebank and McKechnie chose this particular Van Gogh because of impending climate threats to the region it depicts. Arles, a beautiful part of France and one of the artist’s favorite regions to paint, is expected to endure severe drought after a "dry winter and spring in which rain levels were 45 percent below historic averages followed by an extreme heatwave in May and June."

Reportedly, three women and two men have been arrested so far in connection to these events.

About the Author

Anna Claire Mauney

Anna Claire Mauney is the former managing editor for Art & Object. A writer and artist living in North Carolina, she is interested in illustration, the 18th-century, and viceregal South America. She is also the co-host of An Obsessive Nature, a podcast about writing and pop culture.

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