Climate activists targeted an artwork by revered French impressionist Claude Monet at the Stockholm National Museum on Wednesday, dousing it with red paint and gluing themselves to the protective glass around the painting.
The two women belong to the Aterstall Vatmarker (Restore Wetlands) group, which published a video of the stunt on social media and identified the pair as Emma and Maj, a nurse and a nursing student.
In the clip, the two women can be heard shouting that the “climate situation is acute” and “our health is being threatened” as they targeted Monet’s ‘The Artist’s Garden in Giverny’.
“The situation is urgent. As a nurse, I refuse to watch,” the woman named as Emma said, adding that “the pandemic was nothing compared to the climate collapse. It’s about life or death.”
Helen Wahlgren, a spokesperson for Restore Wetlands, told AFP that the goal of the demonstration was to pressure the Swedish government to cut greenhouse emissions.
“We should lower our emissions by 31%. But our emissions are still increasing,” she stated, adding that the “gorgeous gardens like those in Monet’s painting will soon be a distant memory.”
The museum’s press office confirmed the incident and said that the painting, which is encased in glass, is being inspected by conservators for any damage.
Swedish police issued a press release stating that the two women were arrested at the scene and charged with “aggravated vandalism.” The authorities said that it is unclear if more people had been involved, and that investigators are analyzing the museum’s surveillance cameras.
“We distance ourselves from actions where art or cultural heritage are put at risk of damage,” said Per Hedstrom, acting director general of the Swedish National Museum. “Cultural heritage has great symbolic value, and it is unacceptable to attack or destroy it, for any purpose whatsoever,” he added.
Monet’s painting is the latest artwork to be targeted by climate activists. In recent years, works by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Andy Warhol and Vincent Van Gogh have been attacked. Last year, activists from British group Just Stop Oil threw tomato soup on Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’, while two others glued themselves to ‘Peach Trees in Blossom’ at the Courtauld Gallery in London, permanently damaging the piece. The pair were handed prison terms for criminal damage.