“Van Gogh vandalism causes worldwide oil carbon footprint to drop by almost 35%”
Just as the title you just read, any other concept that art vandalism is in any way effective for raising awareness of global issues - are all fake news. Destroying art as a format of protest to raise awareness for causes that don’t even have any relation to the painting is degrading to the artist's hard-work and dedication, as well as to the cultural significance and importance that art has within our society nowadays.
Art has become a highly praised method of expression, made use of by all people to present their creativity and express their feelings. Through artistic means, some of the most beautiful and touching pieces of work in the world have been created. We now also have the pleasure of having access to some of the greatest paintings ever created, many which changed history and became revolutionary in the world of art in different museums around the world.
Due to the great value that art holds, any act of art vandalism does lead to great controversy. As by destroying a piece of art, it is as if not only the artist is being diminished; but the meaning of the piece, its purpose, and the lovers of the work as well as the artist’s personal connections to it. Through this method of controversy being raised, consequently the causes advocated through vandalism do gain popularity, however, this is not at all an effective method of protesting. No actual resolutions have ever been encouraged to be implemented in order to solve world crises after prestigious worldwide paintings are destroyed.
A recent act of vandalism that has become a great scandal, having a substantial amount of articles written about and raising many debates, was an instance when two members of a protesting group “Just Stop Oil” threw two cans of tomato soup onto one of Van Gogh’s most well known pieces, ‘Sunflowers’. This occurred on Friday the 14th of October 2022, at the National Gallery, London, where the piece is stored and displayed to the public. Fortunately the piece wasn’t completely destroyed, as there was a glass layer protecting it, yet, it took around six hours for the tomato sauce to be completely cleaned off and to ensure that the canvas wasn’t damaged.
Although the protesters didn’t have the intention of actually destroying the artwork, they did plan to attack Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ specifically due to the attention they knew would be given to the occasion. Their protest was an attempt to pressure governments to act more rapidly about ecological disasters. Their reasoning was that “human creativity and brilliance is on show in this gallery, yet our heritage is being destroyed by our government’s failure to act on the climate and cost of living crisis”. Through this statement they are claiming that art is receiving greater acknowledgement than climate change, and that it is the government who hasn’t been taking the necessary actions to stop it.
Indeed the cause they are advocating for is dignified and worth raising awareness about, however, vandalising one of the most famous artworks in the world isn’t the way to do this. The publicity raised by the act was much more negative than positive. People focused much further on the absurdity and lack of sensitivity of the protestors instead of the cause which was being fought for. Not only that, but the piece had no connection whatsoever to the cause.There is no reason to demolish a painting just for attention. Along with destroying the painting, the activists also stated that the value given to art compared to the consideration given to climate change is unfair. Art and climate change are two separate topics, one does not out-weigh the other in any way - just because great effort is dedicated towards preserving art, it doesn’t mean that the same effort can’t also be dedicated to conserving our planet.
Alternatively, there are many more impactful and highly effective manners of protesting for this important cause. One method, through art, is to create it instead of destroying it. Creating a painting or sculpture that portrays the negative effects of climate change or the governments blind eye to the cause would be much more inspirational. Through this strategy more positive media would be generated, and other people would also be motivated to advocate for the cause. Other more traditional formats of protest include marches, rallies, sit-ins, online campaigns, and many more.
There are many other instances when art has been vandalised, ones with background motivations and others for no apparent reasons. Some of the most famous vandalisms which took place throughout the last century, include: The Pietà gets hit with a hammer (1972), The Mona Lisa gets spray-painted while on tour (1974), A famed art dealer protests using Picasso’s Guernica (1974), David Hammons whizzes on a Richard Serra sculpture (1981), The Taliban destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas (2001), A Picasso painting in Texas is tagged with a political message (2012), Anish Kapoor’s monumental sculpture at Versailles is spray painted (2015), A confused Russian guard draws a pair of eyes on a painting (2021).
(To learn more about these vandalism acts access: https://www.artnews.com/list/art-news/news/art-vandalism-mona-lisa-van-gogh-famous-artworks-1234647552/religious-imagery-is-defaced-during-the-byzantine-iconoclasm-726-87-814-42/).
In conclusion, art vandalism is a tradition that needs to urgently be put a stop to, due to its disrespect on so many levels. Art is supposed to be appreciated not envied. The damage of famous artworks shouldn’t be used for publicity in any way, shape or form. Art vandalism for no evident reason, just for the sake of destruction, is even worse than vandalism serving as a form of protest for a significant cause.