Eight-month suspended sentence required against the activist who painted François Pinault’s horse

By Amelie Com



A few hours after the action, the Minister of Culture Rima Abdul Malak went to the scene. Ella had just denounced “eco-vandalismto the National embly. ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

The 21-year-old Frenchwoman, from the Last Renovation environmental movement, had sprayed paint on a sculpture by Charles Ray displayed in front of the Bourse de Commerce.

Eight months in prison suspended against Rachel, the French activist who had sprayed orange paint, in November, a sculpture by Charles Ray belonging to François Pinault. In her requisitions, Wednesday, the tenth chamber prosecutor of the Paris Criminal Court did not go there by four paths. She fears an escalation of environmental movements in their fight against climate change and the multiplication of punch operations in cultural establishments. By dint of becoming generalized, they could inspire movements that more directly threaten “public order” and risk plunging French society into “chaos”.

In front of her, Rachel, 21, animator with children and activist of the Last Renovation movement. On November 18, she threw water-based paint on the stainless steel statue Horse and Rider signed Charles Ray, then attached herself to the legs of the horse in the company of Romain, a Belgian activist of the same movement. The young man has since been banned on French territory and, as far as he is concerned, the case has been closed, recalls the president.

Just before the hearing, Marie Delion, lawyer for the businessman who defends the Pinault collection company, is conciliatory. “we are reserved, she testifies. These are young people erting their freedom of expression and defending a cause. But they committed an offense and there was degradation of the work. His argument was short and François Pinault is not asking for much: 1 euro in symbolic compensation and 1,500 euros in legal fees. The cleaning of the work exceeded 7000 euros according to the estimates presented at the hearing.

Read also“Cultural vandalism”: environmental activists in the sights of the Italian and British governments

In her defense, Rachel explains to the judge that she “not doing this for fun, but because she is worried about the future of the planet“. The young woman says that she first tried to engage in politics, to demonstrate. “It did nothing,” she regrets. The actions of “civil resistance” are, in his eyes, the only way to alert public opinion and to move the public authorities. For their part, his lawyers uphold freedom of expression, but also the state of climatic necessity. Recurring arguments in this type of business. Regarding the specific case of Rachel, lawyer Louise Dumont Saint Priest pointed out that the work only required a simple “cleaning” and that the damage was absolutely not irreversible.

Since June 2022, environmentalists multiply the actions in cultural institutions around the world. British, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and American museums were affected during happenings to denounce the inaction of governments in terms of ecology. In France, Rachel’s gesture was the first of its kind. No militant had yet attacked the integrity of a work of art. The activists had indeed interrupted an opera in Bastille or climbed to the roof of the Pantheon a few days earlier.

Work of 2014, Horse and Rider, Charles Ray’s sculpture was installed on the forecourt of the Bourse du Commerce in December 2021, on the occasion of the establishment’s first exhibition. “I am not a rider and the horse knows it. I tried to sculpt my nervousness as well as that of the horse,” explained the artist at the time of the creation of his steel sculpture.

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