Why are protesters glueing themselves to Italian artworks?

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

On Thursday, two people made headlines after they glued their hands to a statue in Rome’s Vatican Museums – the statue of Laocoön and His Sons – and unfolded a banner reading ‘No Gas, No Coal’.

This was onyy the latest in a series of demonstrations staged by environmental group Ultima Generazione (Last Generation), who have regularly featured in the news for more than two months now – usually after glueing themselves to one of Italy’s famous artworks.

In July, activists from the same group stuck their hands to the glass protecting Botticelli’s Primavera at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.

The group began protesting by staging sit-ins on Rome’s Highway A90 (commonly known as ‘Grande Raccordo Anulare’) in early June, but has since moved on to target public museums and galleries – though the significance here is less obvious.

On the back of the latest protest, many wondered what exactly the link was between the environmental cause and the famous artworks involved.

Ultima Generazione began in 2021 as a “campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience” aimed at uniting Italian campaigners concerned about climate change and the future of the planet.

The name Last Generation stems from its members’ belief that the current generation of world citizens is the last one with a real chance of changing the status quo before the ecological damage inflicted on our planet becomes irreparable. 

READ ALSO: Water levels on Italy’s Lake Garda drop to 15-year low as drought continues

According to the group’s website, the have two main demands. Firstly, they ask that the reopening of old coal power plants be paused immediately and that all scheduled fracking operations be cancelled. 

Secondly, they want an increase in the use of solar energy and wind power equivalent to at least 20 gigawatts. 

After the Uffizi protest, the group pubished a note explaining the reasons behind their association with the art world.

They said that “the country should see to the protection and wellbeing of the planet […] in the same way in which it defends its artistic patrimony”.

Aside from the above connection, Ultima Generazione activists have also been known to draw specific parallels between popular artworks and the current socio-political climate. 

READ ALSO: Will summer 2022 be Italy’s hottest ever?

For instance, the statue of Laocoön and His Sons was targeted earlier this week because, the group explained, much like Laocoön, scientists and activists looking to warn the public about the “consequences of today’s actions” are not being listened to or, even worse, “they are being silenced by politicians”. 

For the sake of context, according to Greek mythology, Laocoön was the Trojan priest who advised his fellow citizens not to let the wooden horse – a gift from the Greeks – into town. His advice was disregarded and Troy later fell at the hands of the Greek soldiers hidden in the horse.

It isn’t clear when or where the next Ultima Generazione demonstration will take place, though, back in July, the group said they would target museums in Florence, Venice, Milan and Rome.