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Protesters representing Extinction Rebellion, the UK-founded environmentalist organisation, disrupted the Impressionist and modern works on paper sale at Christie’s in New York on 11 November. Two protesters in the audience took to the rostrum shouting “no art on a dead planet”, while would-be bidders and specialists looked on.
The auctioneer, Christie’s deputy chairman Tash Perrin, was unable to continue with bidding, leaving the rostrum until security removed the protesters, later identified as Mun Chong and Jim Hicks. As the protesters were being escorted out, Chong continued to shout, “end fossil fuels now” and “we are in a crisis”. According to Artnet News, Chong’s cries elicited the response “we are” from a person elsewhere in the room, followed by laughter throughout. Christie’s livestream of the sale was put on hold as a result of the protest, eventually resuming with the sale of a sketch by Fernand Léger that brough $20,160 (including fees).
In a press release created by Extinction Rebellion NYC, the group stated, “There is no choice now but to engage in unconventional means of protest to bring mass attention to the greatest emergency of our time,” an Extinction Rebellion statement following the protest reads, noting the record number of climate-related disasters that have ravaged the US in 2023, including wildfires and floods. “The science makes clear that we have only a very small window of time in which to end fossil fuels and stop carbon emissions.”
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Following the protest, a spokesperson for Christie’s told Artnet News: “The matter was quickly and peacefully resolved thanks to the Christie’s security team and the sale resumed without incident.”
Extinction Rebellion, founded in 2018, is one of a constellation of climate-based activist organisations that use interventions in fine art spaces as a means of raising awareness. Over the past two years, dozens of the froup’s protests and incidents have rocked the art world, leading both critics and supporters to debate the effectiveness of such strategies.