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'Priceless Work Of Art' At National Gallery Of Art In DC Damaged By Protesters: Feds

By Zak Failla,

Martin and Smith smeared paint on the case and base of Edgar Degas’ Little Dancer, Age Fourteen, a priceless work of art which has drawn visitors for years to the National Gallery of Art, according to prosecutors. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons via Metropolitan Museum of Art / Alvesgaspar

Two climate activists visiting Washington, DC put on a show at the National Gallery of Art as they sought to deface a popular sculpture that was crafted by Edgar Degas nearly 150 years ago as part of their demonstrative statement.

North Carolina resident Timothy Martin and Joanna Smith, of New York, both 53, are both facing federal charges in DC after allegedly smearing paint on the case and base of Degas’ “Little Dancer, Age Fourteen” as part of a pre-orchestrated move, authorities announced.

According to the indictment, the two damaged the “priceless work of art, which has drawn visitors for years to the National Gallery of Art,” in an attack that was purportedly orchestrated by “Declare Emergency,” a group that has also been known to block roadways in the DC area as part of their protests.

It is alleged that Martin and Smith agreed with co-conspirators to enter the museum to damage the exhibit. The two entered the building with plastic water bottles filled with paint, passed off their phones for photos, and waited until patrons left the area.

Prosecutors say that the two then proceeded to smear paint on the case and base, at times smacking it with force, which was also documented by the Washington Post, which had been advised of the plan earlier.

In total, approximately $2,400 in damage was caused and the exhibit had to be removed from the public display for 10 days until it could be repaired and cleaned up.

Martin and Smith were charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and injury to a National Gallery of Art exhibit. Both face five years in prison and a potential $250,000 fine if they are convicted.

Others involved in the conspiracy have yet to be charged.

Declare Emergency, a climate control organization, started a fundraiser on behalf of Martin and Smith following the unsealing of the indictment that raised $1,000 since it was created.

“Around 11 (a.m.) today two parents who are terrified about their children’s futures (as well as all children) made a statement at the National Gallery in DC,” Declare Emergency posted on social media along with a photo of the damage. “Climate change will cause famine, floods, droughts and destruction unless we act now.”

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) also issued a statement of its own following the latest demonstration by climate activists.

"ICOM reiterates that all museums, as trusted institutions, have a role to play in shaping and creating a sustainable future," officials said. "Civil society is a key actor in climate action: from NGOs, networks, and activists to cultural institutions and museums.

"We must step up for our planet collectively and united, for there is no climate solution without transforming our world."

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