Climate activists have glued themselves to a sixteenth century painting at the Royal Academy in protest against climate inaction and the continued production of planet-heating fossil fuels.
Campaigners from the group Just Stop Oil glued their hands to the frame of a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper attributed to one of the artist’s pupils, Giampietrino.
It was the latest in a series of protests by the group targeting the art world, which it wants to do more to address the climate crisis.
Five activists stuck themselves to the frame of the painting after spraying across the wall below it “no new oil”. Within minutes half a dozen security guards and people with RA lanyards ushered visitors and journalists out of the room and one told the protesters that the police had been called.
The Metropolitan Police said at 11.37 am police were called to Burlington House, Piccadilly following reports that protestors had glued themselves to artwork. The police said three men and two women were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. As of 2 pm they remained in custody.
Mr Bramwell, 50, who was among those to target the iconic painting with superglue, said the protest group had chosen The Last Supper because people around the world are currently experiencing a food crisis caused in part by rising global temperatures.
“Food production is down and crops are failing,” he said. “Any more oil production or new oil infrastructure projects are going to tip us over the edge possibly to 2 degrees of warming.”
This, he said, would cause more crops to fail and put more people at risk of starvation.
“The future of this planet is facing it’s last supper in many regards,” he said.
Just Stop Oil wants the government to stop any new production of oil in the UK.
The activists are not alone in their concern. In its road map to a net zero energy system by 2050, the International Energy Agency has said there should be no new oil and gas fields beyond 2021.
Caspar Hughes, another of the activists who glued on to the frame of the painting, told The Independent he didn’t want to spend his morning gluing on to a painting at the Royal Academy but felt that he had no choice.
“Having been woken up by evidence and science by the utter hell that is coming down the road for our children - I’ve got a 15-year-old son, I cannot fathom why we’d let ourselves create a situation where their future is so dire,” he said, speaking in St James’ Park ahead of the action.
When asked about the potential damage to the centuries-old painting that is part of Europe’s cultural heritage, Mr Hughes pointed to the park around him.
“This is our cultural heritage right here, it’s being damaged left, right and centre,” he said. “Why are we placing a higher value on paintings than we are on the landscapes that the painters were actually viewing in order to create those incredible masterpieces.”
Protester Jessica Agar, a 21-year-old art student from Hereford, said the art world has failed to take any meaningful action against climate change.
“The last supper symbolises for me that idea of the last supper — the idea that food is running out,” she said. “I’m trying to get the attention of the art world and the common person and take as much action as I can, until the government steps up and shows that they care more about my future and our children’s future than they do about protecting these pieces of art.”
A spokesperson for the Royal Academy said: “Five people have entered the RA’s Collection Gallery and glued themselves to the frame of The Last Supper, an early 16th century copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s work, attributed to Giampietrino.
“The room has been closed to the public. The police have been called upon the protestors’ request.”
A government spokesperson said: “Vandalising precious artwork is completely unacceptable and achieves nothing.”
“There will continue to be ongoing demand for oil and gas over the coming years as we transition to cleaner, more secure forms of energy generated in this country,” the spokesperson said. “Turning off our domestic source of gas overnight would put energy security, British jobs and industries at risk, and we would be even more dependent on foreign imports.”
It comes less than 24 hours after two Just Stop Oil protesters glued themselves to the frame of John Constable’s masterpiece The Hay Wain at central London’s National Gallery.
They also attached their own image of “an apocalyptic vision of the future” of the landscape, on three large sheets of paper, featuring an old car dumped in front of the Mill and the Hay Wain cart carrying an old washing machine.
They were later named by JSO as music student Eben Lazarus, 22, and psychology student Hannah Hunt, 23, both of Brighton. They wore white T-shirts with the logo Just Stop Oil, stepped over a rope barrier and placed the printed coloured paper on to the front of the painting.
Each also placed a hand on the frame of the painting and kneeled beneath it before loudly outlining their concerns as visitors were ushered out by security staff.
During the protest Lazarus, who described himself as an art lover, said: “Art is important. It should be held for future generations to see, but when there is no food what use is art. When there is no water, what use is art. When billions of people are in pain and suffering, what use then is art.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies