Activists attack Aussie masterpiece

Activists and artists have launched a faux attack on one of Australia's most famous paintings to protest a gas company's alleged destruction of rock art in Western Australia's north.

Video released by Disrupt Burrup Hub on Thursday shows ceramic artist Joana Partyka spray-painting a Woodside Energy logo onto Fredrick McCubbin's Down On His Luck at the Art Gallery of WA.

She then appears to glue her hand to the wall beside the colonial masterpiece as Ballardong Noongar man Desmond Blurton lays an Aboriginal flag on the floor of the gallery.

"This painting is barely 100 years old," he says, pointing to McCubbin's 1889 oil on canvas work.

"We have 50,000-year-old artwork that Woodside is destroying. Cultural artwork that is sacred to our people is being destroyed."

The group is calling for industrial development on the rock art-rich Burrup Peninsula, about 30 kilometres west of Karratha in the Pilbara region, to be stopped, including Woodside Energy's expansion of the Pluto gas plant.

"Woodside likes to slap their logo on everything while they spray their toxic emissions all over sacred rock art," Ms Partyka said.

"We must stop any more industry on the Burrup, or soon there will be no art left."

The gallery said the artwork was protected by a clear plastic sheet and not damaged by the yellow paint.

WA police said a 37-year-old woman believed to be Ms Partyka was arrested at the gallery following reports of a disturbance.

"A protester was located inside the gallery, where it is believed she had damaged a painting and glued her hand to a wall," a police spokeswoman said.

"A second protester, who was in company with the woman, left the gallery after being asked by security and prior to police attendance."

The Burrup Peninsula, known as Murujuga to traditional owners, contains the largest and oldest collection of petroglyphs in the world.

It is also home to the Murujuga National Park, the town of Dampier, Dampier Salt, a Rio Tinto Iron Ore export facility and a fertiliser plant.

Development on the 30km long and 5km wide peninsula, formerly known as Dampier Island, has been opposed in previous decades.

Woodside is one of the world's top 10 independent energy companies and Australia's largest independent and dedicated producer of oil and liquefied natural gas.

It has operated the Karratha Gas Plant on the Burrup for over 30 years, and has the majority share in the nearby Pluto Gas Plant.

Both projects required a significant amount of rock art to be relocated on the peninsula.

The company plans to expand the Pluto plant to process natural gas from the Scarborough offshore gas field.

In a statement, a spokeswoman said Woodside respects people's rights to protest peacefully and lawfully.

"Woodside has a proven, more than 35-year track record of safe, reliable and sustainable operations on Murujuga, delivering natural gas to customers in WA and around the world," she said.

"Our environmental approach complies with all applicable environmental laws and regulations and is underpinned by robust science-based decisions."

The company said peer-reviewed research had not identified any impacts on Murujuga rock art from industrial emissions associated with liquefied natural gas production.