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Climate Protester Sentenced for Vandalizing Degas Artwork at National Gallery

A climate protester who vandalized a historic artwork at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., will serve 60 days in prison as a consequence of her actions. 54-year-old Joanna Smith from Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced last Friday after pleading guilty to causing damage to an exhibit at the art museum.

Last year, Smith and another protester defaced a wax sculpture by the famous artist Edgar Degas by smearing red and black paint on the case. She gave a speech on climate change while committing the vandalism and later posed for photos with the paint still on her hands.

As part of her sentence, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in addition put Smith on 24 months of supervised release and mandated that she complete 150 hours of community service, with 10 hours focused on cleaning graffiti. Smith is also required to reimburse the National Gallery of Art for the estimated $4,000 cost of cleaning the exhibit. Furthermore, she is prohibited from entering the District of Columbia and its museums and monuments for two years.

Prosecutors revealed that the paint used in the defacement was concealed in water bottles and noted that Smith and her partner specifically targeted the 142-year-old sculpture after conducting research on it. The director of the National Gallery of Art, Kaywin Feldman, described the sculpture as “one of the most vulnerable and fragile works in our entire collection” and emphasized the damage caused by the vandalism.

Concerns have been raised over the increasing frequency of museum vandalism in the name of climate activism. Conservative columnist Michael Taube has called for stronger penalties for such criminal acts, emphasizing the need to protect works of art for future generations and to deter further incidents. He stressed the importance of respecting authority, tradition, and public institutions, and the need to put an end to art vandalism.

Written by Staff Reports

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