The deplorable, irrational attempts to gain support for climate activism by attacking iconic artworks have sadly resumed, after a brief hiatus, with today’s attack on Degas’ unique, original wax version of “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen”–a beloved treasure of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, which has attracted international admirers around the world, thanks to the propagation of bronze casts based on the NGA’s wax original from Degas’ hand.
As described here in the stunned museum’s press release, she was “attacked by protestors with swaths of red and black paint.” The statement doesn’t say whether the paint penetrated the plexiglass case that protectively housed “Dancer.” But a video of the attack (to which I refuse to link) shows them thumping loudly and forcefully on the case with their paint-smeared hands.
Here’s the statue under more serene circumstances:
At this writing, the museum not yet revealed whether any of the paint-flingers were apprehended.
Here’s the museum’s full statement, signed by director Kaywin Feldman:
Washington, DC—Today a priceless work of art in our collection, Degas’s original wax Little Dancer, was attacked by protestors with swaths of red and black paint. After attacking the Degas sculpture, they made statements about climate issues.
The work was displayed in a plexiglass case and has been taken off view so that our expert conservation team can assess potential damage to it. Gallery 3, where Little Dancer was on display, and several connecting galleries on the ground floor of the West Building are closed until further notice.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation, which is still active.
We unequivocally denounce this physical attack on one of our works of art and will continue to share information as it becomes available.
The safety and security of our staff and visitors and of our collection remain our highest priority.
Meanwhile, the National Gallery today revealed that Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), will join the NGA as administrator, effective July 3. Especially under these fraught circumstances, one might have expected Lott and/or AAM to have promptly issued a statement in solidarity with Lott’s beleaguered future home. At this writing, I have not yet seen a denunciation by AAM of this implied threat to the integrity of all museum collections.
The Association of Art Museum Directors did issue a statement (reproduced below). Its last sentence echoes the statement that AAMD had issued last November, after the previous round of museum food fights:
I abhor coverage like this in the Washington Post, which obligingly gives the vandals exactly what they want—national attention to their desecration. Why the protesters believe that this will win them converts, not enemies, is beyond me.
UPDATE: In a video posted to Twitter, Feldman said the following about the attacked statue and the players involved in this tense drama:
The work is protected in a plexiglass case and has been taken off display so that our expert conservation team can assess potential damage. The protesters have been detained and our team is safe. We unequivocally denounce this behavior and will continue to share information as it becomes available.
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