Frederick McCubbin painting defaced with Woodside logo in protest at Art Gallery of Western Australia | Western Australia

by AryanArtnews
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Frederick McCubbin painting defaced with Woodside logo in protest at Art Gallery of Western Australia | Western Australia

The Art Gallery of Western Australia’s most important and internationally renowned painting, Frederick McCubbin’s Down on his luck, has been defaced with a Woodside logo.

The masterpiece, which has been part of the gallery’s collection since 1896 and was valued at $3 million a decade ago, was spray-painted yellow with the oil and gas giant’s logo on Thursday morning.

The filmed incident then showed the two protesters unfurling an Aboriginal flag on the floor of the gallery and making an acknowledgment of Country, before one of the protesters taped her hand to the gallery wall.

It was believed the work was not seriously damaged during the protest, with the painting sitting behind a sheet of clear perspex.

Two artists were involved in the action, the latest in a series of acts of art vandalism in Australia and abroad to draw public attention to the climate crisis.

Perth ceramic artist and illustrator Joana Partyka and Ballardong Noongar man Desmond Blurton said in a statement they defaced the painting to draw attention to Woodside’s “ongoing desecration of sacred Murujuga rock art” at the Burrup Peninsula, more than 1,200 km north of Perth in the Pilbara.

Partyka was arrested at the scene. Blurton left the gallery at the request of security guards before the police arrived.

“This painting is barely 100 years old,” Blurton said in the statement.

“Woodside is destroying 50,000 years of our culture.”

The statement demanded the company cease operations on the Burrup, as part of a new direct action campaign by a WA-based group called Disrupt Burrup Hub, targeting Woodside.

“Toxic emissions from Woodside’s Burrup Hub are destroying the oldest, largest rock art gallery in the world,” Partyka said in the statement.

“Incredible artists from this region are featured in this gallery. Their home, the land they paint, is currently under water [from recent flooding]. Woodside likes to slap their logo on everything while spraying their toxic emissions over sacred rock art. We still have to stop any industry on the Burrup, otherwise there will soon be no art left.”

Last year, the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) advised the state government it should extend Woodside’s North West Shelf gas development in the Pilbara – said to be Australia’s biggest polluting fossil fuel development – for a further 50 years to 2070.

Climate campaigners have warned it could add more than 4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

A statement sent to the Guardian from Woodside said the company respects people’s rights to protest peacefully and legally.

“Woodside has a proven record of more than 35 years of safe, reliable and sustainable operations on Murujuga, delivering natural gas to customers in Western Australia and around the world,” the statement said.

“Our environmental approach complies with all applicable environmental laws and regulations and is supported by robust science-based decisions.”

The statement says that peer-reviewed research has identified “no impact” on Murujuga rock art as a result of industrial emissions associated with the production of liquefied natural gas.

A statement from WA Police said a 37-year-old woman had been arrested and was assisting police with enquiries, which are ongoing.

The Art Gallery of WA has been contacted for comment.

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