Climate Protesters Smear Paint on Case and Pedestal of Degas Sculpture at National Gallery of Art Favorite 



Apr 27 2023

On Thursday, two climate protesters dressed in suits smeared paint on the case and pedestal of Edgar Degas’s sculpture Little Dancer Aged Fourteen sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

The protest, which happened around 11 a.m., was aimed at bringing attention to the climate crisis. The protestors also demanded President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency as well as stop issuing new drilling permits and subsidies for fossil fuels. Two people were arrested.

Declare Emergency, the climate group behind the protest, identified the two people who smeared paint as Tim Martin, 54, from Raleigh, North Carolina, and Joanna Smith, 53, from Brooklyn.

“For our children, we are worried like most of Americans, about climate and about biodiversity crisis,” Martin said, according to the Washington Post. “And we need our leaders to step up, put their differences aside and simply be responsible.”

The museum’s director, Kaywin Feldman, issued a video statement on Twitter in response to the protest.

“The work has been taken off display so that our expert conservation team can assess potential damage. We unequivocally denounce this behavior and will continue to share information as it becomes available,” she said.

“We understand the value and importance of art in our society, and we also know that it and everything we love is at stake if we don’t tackle the climate emergency with the urgency that it deserves,” a spokesperson from Declare Emergency emailed ARTnews, emphasizing that the protest was driven by fear and concern about how children won’t receive the same climate protection as artworks at museums.

“We have to convey how dire this situation is, in whatever nonviolent way that we can,” the spokesperson said. “We need to engage with the climate emergency emotionally, and actions such as this one draw that out in us. They bring us to the emotional state that we need to be in to realize how bad things really are. Only after getting to that place will we find the motivation and the resolve to truly save ourselves.”

The protest at the National Gallery of Art follows several other climate protests from a variety of organizations across museums in Europe, Australia and Canada. The protestors frequently target high-profile art works, such as paintings by Vermeer, Goya, Monet, van Gogh, and Rubens.

Italian politicians have pushed for fines related to recent protests that involved public monuments, and two activists in Belgium were sentenced to two months in prison last November for targeting Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring in the Hague.

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