Washington: two environmental activists charged after defacing a Degas sculpture

They had sprayed paint on a work of art in the name of the climate. Two environmental activists, who had carried out a punch action against a famous sculpture by Degas at a major Washington museum, were taken into custody on Friday and charged, the Justice Department said.

Timothy Martin and Joanna Smith, aged 53, are accused of having smeared with paint on April 27 the base and the Plexiglas cage which protects “The little dancer of fourteen years old”, exhibited at the National Gallery of Art.

They surrendered to the police on Friday morning and were placed under arrest. They will have to answer for “contempt of the United States” and “damage” to the museum, heads punishable by five years in prison and a fine of 250,000 dollars.

According to the press release, they caused $2,400 in costs to the museum, which had to remove the work of the French sculptor from its exhibition for ten days.

“Our leaders must take serious measures”

The two activists had carried out their action, one of the first of this type in North America, under the eye of the cameras from the daily Washington Post.

“Our leaders need to take serious action to tell the truth about what is happening to the climate,” said Joanna Smith on this video, seated at the foot of the small statue, her hands covered in red paint.

This “non-violent rebellion” was claimed by the small group Declare Emergency, which asked US President Joe Biden to declare a state of emergency on the climate.

In the fall of 2022, mainly in Europe, environmental activists multiplied actions targeting works of art to alert public opinion to climate change.

They have for example stuck their hands on a Goya painting in Madrid, threw tomato soup on Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ in London And spread mashed potatoes on a Claude Monet masterpiece in Potsdam, near Berlin.

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