Climate activist coalition Ultima Generazione incited a climate demonstration in the waters of the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy, on Monday, May 22. A group of eight protestors waded into the fountain and dumped charcoal into the waters, drawing similarities to coal ash pollution and oil spills from fossil fuel companies. As the black liquid spread, protestors held up a sign reading, “We won't pay for fossil (fuels),” calling for an end to public subsidies for all fossil fuel investments. The demonstration lasted nothing short of 15 minutes before Italian authorities became involved. By 11:45 a.m. local time, authorities removed the protestors from the premises. The organization planned the protest in light of a recent flood in northern Italy that caused the death of eight people and left thousands homeless.
In early April, three activists in the group also targetted a fountain accredited to Pietro Bernini, the Italian sculptor responsible for multiple sculptures across the country and the father of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the man accredited with being one of the most famous artists in the Baroque era. The fountain faced the same exact treatment as the Trevi fountain, complete with the vegetable carbon liquid to darken the waters.
Trevi fountain was built on top of a water source previously constructed by the ancient Romans in 19 BCE. The project took Gian Lorenzo Bernini over 30 years to complete, with construction finishing in 1762. Bernini constructed the art surrounding the fountain to follow the theme “Taming the Waters.”
This targeting sets a dangerous precedent more severe than simple vandalism—it implicates a pattern. Around this time last year, Just Stop Oil was targeting paintings in the United Kingdom, with public works in outdoor spaces and museums. Around the country falling victim to the vandalism, the most publicized demonstration being the can of tomato soup flung at Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Shortly after, Ultima Generazione began work in Italy. This year, it seems that the Italian group is kicking off and we could expect more in the future.
Italian lawmakers began pushing for protestors who damage art to be fined, with the range for the fine expected to be around $11,000–$65,000. The protest has cost the Italian government tens of thousands of dollars in increased security budgets and repair costs.
“The attacks on monuments and artistic sites produce economic damage to all,” Sangiuliano stated.
Once again, the group’s goals became a reality, with news reporters eating up the story as soon as possible, making waves for art enjoyers and climate activists alike. These demonstrations are designed to insight outages—just like last year.
Unfortunately for Ultima Generazione, the billionaires and large-scale corporations responsible for pollution and climate change do not care about the art at stake for these protests. Corporations will continue finding ways to make new fossil fuel deals, all the while the public is at risk for losing artwork integral to art and human history.