Italy: after the Botticelli Spring, environmental activists target a symbol of progress | Knowledge of the Arts

Last Saturday, activists from Ultima Generazione clung to the plinth of Futurist Boccioni’s Man in Motion at the Museo del Novecento in Milan. This is the second such action in Italy.

If the climate collapses, there will be no more museums, no more art “, had alerted the collective Ultima Generazione (Last generation in French) during their first non-violent action at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence where activists had glued their hands to the window of the Spring (circa 1480) by Sandro Botticelli, on July 22. Saturday July 30, this time the activists victimized The man in motion (1913) by Umberto Boccioni, exhibited at Museo del Novecento in Milan, before being arrested by the police.


A new mode of militant action

Florence, Venice, Milan and Rome… The environmental movement had nevertheless announced its intentions for its ” a new season of action within Italian museums in its press releases. Activists were certainly inspired by the wave of high-profile operations that swamped five UK institutions, from the Royal Academy of Arts to the National Gallery in London, including the Courtauld Gallery and the Manchester Art Gallery, where activists from the Just Stop Oil collective stuck their hands on the frames of masterpieces by Van Gogh, Turner and Constable, all in less than a week.

The four activists carried out their operation on July 30. ©Ultima Generation

We carry out actions of non-violent civil disobedience to provoke urgent and concrete actions against climate collapse “Explains Ultima Generazione from the outset on its website. After roadblocks and a 13-day hunger strike, the collective seizes on this new mode of militant action to demand an end to the exploitation of gas and coal. For Ultima Generazione, we should take as much care of the planet as of our artistic heritage. If the first action targeted an icon of Italian Renaissance art, the second also targets a futuristic masterpiece that symbolizes progress. “ We have stuck to Boccioni’s bronze because we can no longer afford to rush into economic progress. The progress the futurists hoped for is the same that is now leading us toward mass extinction “, explains the collective. Depicted on the obverse side of Italian 20 euro cent coins, The man in motion celebrates modern life and its dynamism. After the intervention of the four members of Ultima Generazione on the base of the sculpture, they were arrested by the police and are accused of “ damage and resistance to a public official “according to the Anglo-Saxon media” The Art Newspaper », the museum closed its doors after the operation.

Future operations in French museums?

If these two operations aim to draw attention to the climate crisis by challenging the art world, they are nevertheless carried out in such a way as to damage the works of art as little as possible. In a press release, the organization specifies that the bronze of Boccioni was not touched and that the participants consulted beforehand restorers who advised them of an adhesive adapted to stick to the base of the work. Wishing to make the general public aware of the ecological cause, Ultima Generazione is organizing a video presentation on Zoom on August 7 at 9 p.m. to explain the why and how of these “ non-violent civil disobedience actions », through testimonials from members of the collective.

Umberto Boccioni, Man in Motion, 1913, casting 1949, bronze, 121.9 x 39.4 x 91.4 cm, Museo del Novecento, Milan ©Wikimedia Commons/Paolobon140

Umberto Boccioni, Man in Motion, 1913, casting 1949, bronze, 121.9 x 39.4 x 91.4 cm, Museo del Novecento, Milan ©Wikimedia Commons/Paolobon140

If it is not known whether the British collective Just Stop Oil is affiliated with the members of Ultima Generazione, the activists present at the Galleries of the Offices and the Museo de Novecento sported the same Just Stop Oil t-shirts during their operations. Are events in other European museums to be expected? The Italian organization being close to other environmental groups such as Der Letzer Generation (Germany) or Last Renovation (France), it is possible. Since the first actions in British institutions, French museums have been following the development of this new mode of action to continue to best protect the works on display. Earlier this month, an Extinction Rebellion activist told the daily Le Figaro ” that “ the museums were not ready “. Already several Last Renovation actions have already been carried out at Roland-Garros and on the Tour de France. Let’s hope that with these first warnings, French institutions will now be ready.



Italy: after the Botticelli Spring, environmental activists target a symbol of progress | Knowledge of the Arts