Well-known Belgian activist among 3 arrested in Girl with a Pearl Earring incident
The man who glued himself to the famous painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, on Thursday is Belgian climate activist Wouter M., according to research by ANP. The police reported that three people with Belgian nationality were arrested, including a 42-year-old man and two 45-year-old men. They were expected to be interrogated. Wouter M. previously disrupted the Tour of Flanders by running up the course during the final sprint.
The organizers of the action at the Mauritshuis in The Hague said they selected this particular painting to cause as much commotion as possible. In fact, the plan was to throw soup at it, too.
Video of the protest action show how Wouter M. glued his head to the glass in front of the painting. Another man named David, according to a spokesperson for the activists, then poured soup over M. He then glued himself to the wall and explained their motives. The third man who was arrested filmed the action.
Spokesperson Xavier De Wannemaker said Girl with a Pearl Earring was chosen purely because it is the most famous painting the activists could come up with, partly thanks to the film made about it. "The more famous, the more attention," he said. The protest had nothing to do with the Netherlands, nor with the Mauritshuis, he continued. According to De Wannemaker, they were "not aware of the fact that the museum was sponsored by Shell in the past."
In a similar action by the British branch of Just Stop Oil, soup was thrown at Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers. That is what the activists in the Mauritshuis initially intended, according to their spokesperson. De Wannemaker said he believes that this was not done because they assumed that there was also a sheet of glass in front of the painting, and that it was not just framed bare. In their own words, they claim that if there had been no glass at all, they would not have chosen this specific work of art.
The activists wore shirts from the Just Stop Oil action group during the action. However, the British action group reported earlier in the day that they were not behind the action. De Wannemaker confirmed that. He said that it is an independently operating spin-off of the Belgian branch of Extinction Rebellion, which does not take such actions. A press release said the activists believe the severity of the climate crisis justifies such actions.
Reporting by ANP