A Famous Van Gogh Painting Was Hit With Tomato Soup. Here's Why

Vincent Van Gogh and Andy Warhol lived in two different eras. Nevertheless, the famous artists symbolically clashed this week as activists threw a can of Heinz tomato soup (immortalized, albeit in Campbell's form, in Warhol's iconic pop-art piece) at an $84.2 million Van Gogh sunflower painting on display at the National Gallery in London, Metro reports. It's not the first time a renowned work of art has been vandalized. "The Mona Lisa," which remains on display at The Louvre in Paris, has been tagged with spray paint, hit with a teacup, beaten with a rock, scored with a razor blade, and — most recently — smashed with cake, per ARTnews

Just like with all those attempted defilements of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous portrait, the vandals of Van Gogh's floral still life weren't just getting their kicks. Instead, the Just Stop Oil activists were protesting Britain's ongoing oil and housing crisis, per Metro.

Climate activists asked: 'What is worth more, art or life?'

On October 14, two young climate activists donning Just Stop Oil t-shirts threw cans of Heinz tomato soup at the glass frame displaying an 1888 version of Vincent Van Gogh's "Sunflowers." A video of the event posted on Twitter and shared by Metro shows the pair addressing the shocked crowd, security officers, and the Metropolitan Police Service. "We cannot afford new oil and gas," says activist Phoebe Plummer. "It is going to take everything we know and love." 

The U.K. is experiencing a historic housing, inflation, and energy crisis, caused in large part by high oil prices, per CNN. In the video, the pair can also be heard asking, "What is worth more, art or life?" and "Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?" The pair were arrested for criminal damage, according to Metro.

In June 2022, other Just Stop Oil activists glued themselves to a Van Gogh painting at the Courtauld Institute of Art hoping to convey a similar message, Artnet reports. The month before, activists from the organization performed the same demonstration alongside a Horatio McCulloch painting in Glasgow, Scotland.