Climate activists poured black liquid over a pane of glass protecting Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece Death and Life in Vienna on Tuesday, in the latest protest at inaction on global warming.
The Leopold Museum in Vienna announced that the Austrian painter’s work was undamaged.
Tuesday’s stunt follows a series of actions by activists to raise awareness of the climate emergency.
They glued themselves to the frame of a Goya in Madrid, threw soup onto screens showing Vincent van Goghs in London and Rome, and mashed potatoes on the glass above a Claude Monet.
“We were attacked shortly after 11 a.m.,” said Klaus Pokorny, spokesman for the Leopold Museum.
Last Generation Austria, a group campaigning for the Vienna government to halt new fossil fuel investments, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Klimt painting on Twitter.
It shared images on social media of two men spilling a black, oily liquid on the glass protecting the work before being confiscated by a museum employee.
One of the activists then taped himself to the picture frame.
“Stop destroying fossils. We are speeding towards climate hell,” shouted one of the demonstrators.
Museum director Hans-Peter Wipplinger said neither the painting nor the frame were damaged.
The two demonstrators were not arrested but reported for serious damage to property and disturbance of public order, a Vienna police spokeswoman told AFP.
Admission to the Leopold Museum was free on Tuesday as part of a day sponsored by the Austrian oil and gas company OMV.
“The concerns of climate activists … are valid, but attacking artworks is definitely the wrong approach,” Wipplinger said.
Austria’s State Secretary for Arts and Culture, Andrea Mayer, said it was wrong to take the risk of “damaging works of art beyond repair”.
“Art and culture are allies in the fight against the climate catastrophe, not opponents,” she said.
Dozens of the world’s top museums issued a joint statement last week, saying environmental activists targeting paintings “grossly underestimate the damage that could be caused.”
The declaration was spearheaded by the Prado in Madrid and signed by the directors of more than 90 world-renowned museums, including the Guggenheim in New York, the Louvre in Paris and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.