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Environmental advocate convicted for vandalizing a Degas sculpture displayed at the National Gallery of Art.


Smith and her accomplice had previously conducted research on the artwork and specifically targeted it. Prior to entering the National Gallery, they recorded video statements explaining their intentions.



In a press release, U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves and FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Scott, from the FBI's Washington Field Office's Criminal and Cyber Division, reported that Joanna Smith, a 54-year-old climate activist from Brooklyn, New York, has been sentenced to 60 days in prison. This sentence comes as a result of her involvement in the defacement of an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in April 2023. The exhibit showcased a wax sculpture called "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen," which was created by Edgar Degas.


On December 15, 2023, Smith entered a guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson for causing injury to an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. Judge Berman Jackson, in addition to imposing a prison sentence, ordered Smith to undergo 24 months of supervised release, complete 150 hours of community service (with 10 hours dedicated to graffiti removal), and pay restitution for the damage caused to the Degas exhibit.


Furthermore, Smith is prohibited from entering the District of Columbia and all museums and monuments for a duration of two years. The government's evidence revealed that Smith, along with other co-conspirators, traveled to Washington D.C. on April 27, 2023, and deliberately vandalized the National Gallery of Art's permanent exhibition of Degas' "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen," which was created between 1878 and 1881, by smearing red and black paint on it.


Smith and her accomplice had previously conducted research on the artwork and specifically targeted it. Prior to entering the National Gallery, they recorded video statements explaining their intentions. Smith and her accomplice managed to pass through security without being detected, as they had concealed paint inside water bottles.



Approaching the exhibit, the duo took out the bottles from their bags and proceeded to smear paint on the case and base surrounding the sculpture. As paint dripped from the artwork onto the floor, Smith delivered statements to onlookers, explaining her motives for undertaking such an action.


As a result of this incident, the National Gallery had to remove the sculpture from public display for a period of 10 days. During this time, they assessed the artwork for any damage and carried out necessary repairs to the case. Gallery officials stated that the cost of repairing the damage amounted to over $4,000.


Smith collaborated with climate activist Tim Martin from North Carolina to carry out the action. Both individuals are affiliated with the climate activism organization Declare Emergency.



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