Protesters deny damaging Vincent Van Gogh Sunflowers painting

Anna Holland and Phoebe Plummer denied dousing the protective case around the painting in soup caused damage.

Environmental protesters deny damaging Vincent Van Gogh Sunflowers painting iStock

Two people have denied causing criminal damage to one of Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers paintings by covering it in soup at a London gallery as part of a protest against fossil fuels.

Anna Holland and Phoebe Plummer appeared in court on Saturday over the incident at the National Gallery after the Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion carried out several protests in the English capital last week.

Holland, 20, from Newcastle, and Plummer, 21, from London, both pleaded not guilty at a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

A third woman, 38-year-old Lora Johnson, also denied spraying paint over the rotating sign outside New Scotland Yard.

Appearing in the dock together, Holland and Plummer spoke only to confirm their name, date of birth, addresses and to enter pleas of not guilty to criminal damage to the value of less than £5,000.

Prosecutor Ola Oyedepo said the pair threw the “orange substance” knowing there was a “protective case” over the actual painting, though damage was caused to the frame.

Ms Oyedepo said it is unclear at this stage what the value of the damage is but said it is “significantly below the £5,000 cost threshold”.

She said the pair “did not damage the picture because the picture is worth millions”.

Katie McFadden, defending, said: “The prosecution needs to prove that damage has been caused.”

She said the “extent of the damage would be relevant to the proportionality assessment” in weighing up their right to expression.

District judge Tan Irkam released the pair on bail on the condition they do not enter galleries or museums and do not have paint or adhesive substances in a public place.

He set their trial for December 13 at City of London Magistrates’ Court.

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