Throwing tomato soup at a Van Goph painting

Last Updated on September 20, 2023 by Ecologica Life

On October 14th, two protestors from the activists group Just Stop Oil, threw tomato soup at a Van Goph painting in London’s National Gallery Museum. The protestors then proceeded to glue themselves to the wall just below the painting. After they stated loud and clear “What is worth more, art or life, is it worth more than food, worth more than justice, are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?” You can watch the whole protest below.

A Van Goph painting that bathed in tomato soup

The painting in question is one of sunflowers by Vincent Van Goph. The National Gallery said that the Van Goph painting had not been damaged by the tomato soup, although its frame had sustained “minor damage.” Two days after the protest, the painting was once again on exhibit at the National Gallery.

The protestors who threw tomato soup at a Van Goph painting

The protestors are Phoebe Plummer and Anna Holland, two climate activists associated with the group Just Stop Oil. Just Stop Oil is an environment activist group that uses extreme tactics to campaign for more action on climate change. They also have ties with climate activists Extinction Rebellion whose tactics have also been criticised by some.

Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion are funding by the Climate Emergency Fund – A US network set up in 2019 to fund climate activism. Interestingly, The Climate Emergency Fund is partly funded by Aileen Getty, A US philanthropist whose grandfather was petroleum tycoon J Paul Getty.

Benefits of the protest

Phoebe Plummer stated in a video that “I want to make one thing perfectly clear, we did no damage to the painting whatsoever.” “What we’re doing is getting the conversation going so we can ask the questions that matter.” After finding out that they didn’t actually damage the famous Van Goph painting in any way, many have come to praise the young activists for bringing visibility to a topic that clearly needs more attention. Their video went viral on twitter with more than 8 million views, and as a result their movement has gained traction

Downsides of the protest

On the flipside, many were appalled by the action of the two young girls, and not all the publicity they gained was good. With many angry comments flung back and forth between supporters and those who were against the demonstration.

At best, this polarisation may cause individuals to disregard all climate protests. They therefore may not be open to understanding and getting involved in the climate change movement. At worst, this may make some individuals downright hate climate protestors, even peaceful ones. Which may lead to even further hate and violence, in a repeating cycle.


The two young protestors gained a lot of publicity for their cause, but not all of it was good. The risks of polarising the public should be considered when any type of protest is planned. As this can give a movement such as the climate change movement more opposition. Which is not needed in pivotal moments such at now when the world is discussing climate change action.

One must wonder if throwing tomato soup on a piece of art is the best way to gain publicity? Art is something that should be enjoyed by everyone. This piece of art was temporarily unavailable for those visiting the museum on those days. Neither the museum visitors nor the art are major drivers of climate change. Not to mention those who had to clean the painting afterwards.

A protest should not impede or affect the everyday life of the average person. As this is sure to cause polarisation. TikTokers and other content creators get publicity every day in harmless ways that don’t affect the lives of others. Other ways to get publicity that do not cause polarisation and are more specific to the problem of climate change merit consideration before following through with a protest.

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