Climate activists’ attacks on masterpieces seem to be unstoppable, as insurers are working to assess the real threat behind those, and increasing art insurance premiums.
In recent weeks, climate activists throwed tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in the National Gallery in London and an oil-like liquid at Gustav Klimt’s “Death and Life” in the Leopold Museum in Vienna. Those were the most notorious series of attacks with some demonstrators also gluing their hands to pieces exhibited in different museums and galleries.
In all cases so far, the paintings were shielded by a special screen and were unharmed. Only “minor damage” in the frame of the Sunflowers was reported.
As many in the art world and the insurance industry are wondering what is next, almost 100 galleries, including New York’s Guggenheim and the Paris Louvre, earlier this month issued a statement saying the activists underestimate the fragility of these irreplaceable objects.
“In recent weeks, there have been several attacks on works of art in international museum collections. The activists responsible for them severely underestimate the fragility of these irreplaceable objects, which must be preserved as part of our world cultural heritage,” they said.
In a statement issued by the German National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) they also noted that museum directors were increasingly “frustrated” and had been “deeply shaken” by the endangerment of the art.
In the insurance industry experts are concerned that other activists might not be as genteel.
“At the moment it’s just climate change activists, who are mainly middle class liberals and are not really intending to damage the work,” said Robert Read, head of art and private client at insurer Hiscox. “What we worry about is if it spreads to other protest groups who are less genteel and will take a less caring attitude.”
Just the clean-up and remounting costs can reach tens of thousands of dollars, said Filippo Guerrini Maraldi, head of fine art at broker Howden.