Climate protest in the museum: Vermeer’s Street under water

Climate activists from the action group Extinction Rebellion (XR) disrupted the opening of the new Frans Hals exhibition in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on Friday. The action group protests against the fact that the ING bank is one of the main sponsors of the museum and demands immediate termination of that contract. According to XR, “the good image of the Rijksmuseum is being abused” by companies such as ING that invest in the fossil industry.

Unlike previous protests in museums against the fossil industry where paintings were smeared with paint behind glass, the protest was conducted in an ‘art-friendly’ manner: no cans of soup against paintings. The activists held posters of famous works of art, which have been edited with artificial intelligence to show climate disasters. The street by Johannes Vermeer, but flooded. Or The floating feather by Melchior d’Hondecoeter, but without birds. Because: “They will soon be extinct,” said an XR spokesperson Het Parool. According to the group, the photos show “what awaits us.”

Extinction Rebellion believes that investments in culture do not go hand in hand with billions in investments in fossil fuels. “It cannot be the case that the Rijksmuseum invests more than 3 million euros in the preservation of The Night Watch and at the same time accepts money from a sponsor who makes a viable future impossible,” the group writes. “The action is part of the same campaign as the A10 blockades.”

A spokesperson for the Rijksmuseum tells the ANP news agency that it regularly talks to ING “about its social role and climate concerns.” The museum does not want to discuss its relationship with ING and whether these discussions have any consequences. Friday morning’s action during the Frans Hals exhibition was reportedly peaceful. Nevertheless, the Rijksmuseum has stated that the museum should not become a demonstration site. “People come here to quietly enjoy art.” ING rejected the action. “If they want to enter into dialogue, that is fine with ING,” a spokesperson told the ANP news agency.