The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will remove the Sackler family name from its galleries. The museum previously contained seven exhibition spaces, including a popular wing housing the ancient Egyptian Temple of Dendur, named for members of the Sackler family.
The announcement comes as a wave of institutions, including the Musée du Louvre, the Solomon R. Guggenheim, the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum, cut ties with the Sackler family following years-long protests against Purdue Pharma, the company owned in principal by members of the family. The firm manufactured the painkiller Oxycontin and has been accused of fueling the opioid epidemic in the US. (According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in nearly 50,000 overdose deaths in 2019, or 70.6% of all overdose deaths in the US that year.)
The Met and the descendants of Mortimer Sackler and Raymond Sackler, the brothers who helped established the multi-generational Sackler fortune, said in a joint statement that “we believe this to be in the best interest of the museum and the important mission that it serves”, and that “the earliest of these gifts were made almost 50 years ago, and now we are passing the torch to others who might wish to step forward to support the museum”.
Dan Weiss, the president and chief executive of the Met, adds: “The Met has been built by the philanthropy of generations of donors, and the Sacklers have been among our most generous supporters. This gracious gesture by the Sacklers aids the Museum in continuing to serve this and future generations.”
In October last year, the US Department of Justice announced that members of the Sackler family involved with Purdue Pharma agreed to pay $225m in civil penalties to resolve allegations that the aggressive marketing of Oxycontin caused doctors to overprescribe the medication. The settlement also cleared the Sacklers from claims that assets from Purdue Pharma were transferred to holding companies and trusts to protect the company from a bankruptcy case. In settling that bankruptcy case, the Sacklers, many of their associates and their network of trusts and companies were granted immunity from future opioid lawsuits.
The artist Nan Goldin, who has suffered from opioid addiction, has led many demonstrations against the Sacklers with the activist group Pain (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) since 2018, including a protest where demonstrators threw hundreds of prescription bottles into the moat surrounding the Temple of Dendur.