Just Stop Oil demonstrators in protest at London’s Royal Academy

·5-min read
Protesters from Just Stop Oil climate protest group glue their hands to the frame of a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s, The Last Supper (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
Protesters from Just Stop Oil climate protest group glue their hands to the frame of a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s, The Last Supper (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Climate protesters have struck for the fifth time in a week at a major art gallery – this time by sticking themselves to the frame of a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

Five Just Stop Oil (JSO) supporters attached themselves to the frame while the words “No New Oil” were spray-painted in white letters on to the red plinth under the vast painting at the Royal Academy (RA) in central London.

One of the protesters branded the Government a “Judas” to future generations as he said the group had taken its campaign to the “magnificent beautiful painting” because the future is “bleaker than ever”.

The painting represents the scene when Jesus announced that one of his 12 apostles would betray him, during the last time he dined with them before he was crucified.

The campaigners are calling for the Government to halt new oil and gas licences in the UK and for the directors, employees and members of art institutions to join the JSO protests.

Security guards soon cleared the largely empty gallery of visitors.

The guerrilla tactics were condemned by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries who tweeted: “These attention seekers aren’t helping anything other than their own selfish egos.

“Disrupting access to our fabulous cultural assets and putting them at risk of damage is unacceptable.

“These protesters should be removed and held responsible for the damage and disruption.”

During Tuesday’s protest, one of the activists said: “The truth is any new oil expansion is a death sentence, a death sentence for the future.

“It is a death sentence for younger generations. It is a death sentence for the nature that has directly inspired art for hundreds of thousands of years.”

(James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
(James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

He suggested the Government is “betraying the younger generations and those in the global south who are facing the worst impacts” of climate change.

An RA spokesman said: “The room has been closed to the public. The police have been called upon the protesters’ request.”

JSO later named some of the protesters as Lucy Porter, 47, a former primary teacher from Leeds, Jessica Agar, a 21 year-old art student from Hereford, and Tristan Strange, 40, a community organiser from Swindon.

In a statement, Ms Porter said: “My job as a teacher was to encourage my students to take inspiration from the great works of art housed by institutions like the Royal Academy.

“How can our Government expect young people to respect culture when they are encouraging new oil and gas projects that will be our children’s death sentence?”

Ms Agar added: “As an art student, I deeply respect and value the artworks themselves, but I also value the power that art has to change the world. It’s that power I speak to today.

Artists and galleries are failing to meaningfully take action against the climate emergency.

“No painting is worth more than my six-month old nephew’s life. No sculpture can feed babies starving because extreme heat killed food crops.”

Mr Strange added: “Time is running out to change course or prepare for disaster and the message is not reaching the public or our politicians. We must stop new oil and gas immediately.

“Da Vinci said that art is the queen of all sciences, communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world. The science still isn’t being heard.”

(James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
(James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

Da Vinci created The Last Supper between 1492 and 1497-48, and the RA’s full-size copy of it was painted by one or more of his pupils.

The RA copy – which is attributed to Giampietrino and Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio – is believed to be the most accurate record of the original and was painted in around 1515-20.

The oil on canvas painting is about 9ft 11in (3020mm) by 25ft 9in (7850mm), which makes it slightly smaller than the original.

In the last week, JSO activists have allegedly attached themselves to a 19th-century landscape by Horatio McCulloch called My Heart’s In The Highlands, which hangs in Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

They are also alleged to have sprayed the group’s logo on the walls and floor of the renowned gallery in orange paint.

(James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
(James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

They have also allegedly attached themselves to Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 work Peach Trees In Blossom at The Courtauld Gallery in London.

Another alleged target has been a JMW Turner painting at Manchester Art Gallery.

Arrests were also made after two activists allegedly glued themselves to the frame of John Constable’s The Hay Wain at central London’s National Gallery on Monday and covered it with a reimagined scene of the destruction that climate change could cause to the landscape.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “At 11.37am on Tuesday 5 July, police were called to Burlington House, Piccadilly, following reports that protesters had glued themselves to artwork.

“Officers attended. Three men and two women were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. They remain in custody.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting