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Fox News
Fox News
27 May 2023

Two climate activists who allegedly smeared paint on a case surrounding 19th century French artist Edgar Degas’ "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen" sculpture at Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art last month were taken into custody Friday and face federal charges.

Timothy Martin, 53, and Joanna Smith, 53, both surrendered themselves to authorities Friday after they were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and injury to a National Gallery of Art exhibit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., said in a release. 

Martin and Smith, along with other unindicted co-conspirators with the climate group Declare Emergency, walked into the art museum with the intent of damaging the sculpture, the indictment alleges.


Degas' "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen" with paint smeared on its case

Timothy Martin and Joanna Smith have been indicted for allegedly defacing the case of Degas' "little Dancer Aged Fourteen" last month.  (Ellie Silverman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The two allegedly smuggled the paint in plastic water bottles and had other conspirators film them smearing the paint of the base and the see-through case, while sometimes hitting the roughly 143-year-old priceless artwork with force, on their phones, according ot the release. They also alerted two reporters from the Washington Post who arrived and took photos of the vandalism. 

The April 27 incident caused $2,400 in damage and forced staff to remove "Little Dancer" from the galleries for 10 days for repairs, the release said. 


The vandalism is being investigated by the FBI’s Art Crime Team, with assistance from National Gallery of Art Police, and U.S. Park Police.

Climate activists smearing paint on the case of Degas' "Little Dancer."

Climate protesters smear paint on the case that houses Edgar Degas's Little Dancer Aged Fourteen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (Ellie Silverman/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

All of the charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. 

Declare Emergency, who took credit for the attack, tweeted that they wanted to send a message about climate change.

"Around 11 am 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. Climate change will cause famine, floods, droughts and destruction unless we act now," Declare Emergency tweeted.

Declare Emergency told Fox News Digital in a statement that it understands the importance of art, but also needs to show how urgent the climate change issue is.

"We understand the value and importance of art in our society, and we also know that it and everything we love is at stake if we don’t tackle the climate emergency with the urgency that it deserves," the group said. "We have to convey how dire this situation is, in whatever nonviolent way that we can. We need to engage with the climate emergency emotionally, and actions such as this one draw that out in us. They bring us to the emotional state that we need to be in to realize how bad things really are. Only after getting to that place will we find the motivation and the resolve to truly save ourselves."