Most of these artworks were not even really damaged, since all the dramatic soup-throwing in the world will never be able to go through the protective layer of glass to the actual canvas. But cars have also been targeted and these, as you can imagine, did take some damage. None of it has been as bad as what they did to the one-off Andy Warhol Art Car, though.
On November 18, as the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) was underway, Italian activists going by the name Ultima Generazione (Last Generation) headed into a museum in Milan, Italy, and doused the art car with about 18 pounds (8 kg) of flour – the 00 type, the kind you use for making pizza. Then, they laid on the floor and caused a scene, and posted about it on social media, urging politicians to take action and regular people to join them.
It makes sense if you think about it: what sense is there to hoard all these priceless works of art if there will be no planet to speak of in a matter of decades? So the solution proposed by Ultima Generazione is an act of mild violence against these works of art to draw attention.
On social media, these activists are fearless. To them, the problem is black and white, with no gray in between. “If the media told the truth, the entire population would demand urgent change,” they write. “Unfortunately this does not happen, the problem is still marginalized or even denied: we feel obliged to do so!” It is ridiculous to be scandalized over damage to a car, even if it’s an object of art, when our children’s future is not guaranteed.
We’ve already covered the topic extensively and offered various (personal) perspectives on eco-activism of this kind. The consensus is that, regardless of how justified drastic action is, damaging works of art is only damaging to the art community, and more likely not efficient in drawing politicians’ attention. Targeting art turns activism into ridicule, precisely because it feels particularly random and senseless.
In this particular case, the work of art damaged was a priceless, one-off BMW M1, the fourth BMW Art Car but the only art car by Andy Warhol, as well as the first one to have had the paint applied directly onto the body. The art is inspired by speed, but the car itself is a valuable piece of automotive history even without Warhol’s paint to it: it was raced at the 1979 Le Mans, taking sixth overall and second in its class.
M1 was pulled from racing and sent over to him that same year. The artist, who famously never got a driver’s license but had a deep appreciation for the art of automobile making, loved it on the spot and was so inspired by it that it only took him 30 minutes to paint it. The result is a red, yellow and turquoise piece of pop art that looks as if it’s still dripping wet, with the colors blurring and blending into one another, creating the impression of speed even when it’s not moving.
Since then, the BMW M1 Art Car has been displayed in museums around the world. The Ultima Generazione stunt saw it covered with flour and, perhaps once it’s cleaned up, will see it put inside a glass case, to discourage further attacks. A price tag was never attached to it, and it would probably be futile to try and set it: Warhol’s works sell for prices in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and this is a one-off work with Le Mans racing history.
Ultima Generazione did get people’s attention, but again, it wasn’t for the right reasons. People are not talking about the need for concrete actions to reduce carbon emissions, but about eco-terrorists damaging another piece of art and acting like spoiled children with no self-control.
Milano. 8 kg di farina sulla "Macchina" di Andy Warhol. E' assurdo scandalizzarsi per questo, restando indifferenti al fatto che migliaia di persone stanno già morendo a causa della crisi climatica, e il governo non fa nulla. #gas #carbone #crisiclimatica #ultimagenerazione pic.twitter.com/2QEbJ7RCCU— Ultima Generazione (@UltimaGenerazi1) November 18, 2022