The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the National Portrait Gallery have the Sackler family removed.
The Sackler name is set to be removed from the popular institutions Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the National Portrait Gallery in London due to the ongoing opioid crisis which members of the family and their company, Purdue Pharma, have been accused of helping to fuel. The Guggenheim Museum will remove the name from its education center quietly, without an official public announcement.
“The Guggenheim and the Mortimer D. Sackler family have agreed to rename the arts education center,” confirmed Sara Fox, a museum spokesperson. “We believe this decision is in the best interest of the museum and the vital work it does.”
In 2019, the National Portrait Gallery declined a donation from the Sackler Trust for the first time, which has long supported scientific research, art, and charities. A Gallery spokesperson said at the time, “It has become evident that recent reporting of allegations made against Sackler family members may cause this new donation to deflect the National Portrait Gallery from its important work.” It has now confirmed that the “naming of Room 34 as the Sackler Gallery should come to an end.”
Other institutions have already removed the name. Five months ago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art scrubbed the Sackler name from its gallery, which houses the Temple of Dendur, and six other exhibitions.
In 2019, photographer and artist Nan Goldin led a “Sackler Pain” protest movement. Goldin stated at the time, “We have to bring down the Sackler family. They should be in jail next to [convicted Mexican drug dealer] El Chapo.”
At the Guggenheim, the photographer and her supporters, unexpectedly and to the shock of visitor, dropped thousands of fake prescriptions into the atrium. Goldin had once overdosed on Oxycontin herself and almost lost her life. She said, “I want the Guggenheim and others publicly to disavow themselves from the Sacklers and refuse future funding from them, and I want them to take down the Sackler name from the museums.”
Prior to that, in March 2018, Goldin and her crew threw empty pill bottles into the Sackler Wing’s reflecting pool at the Metropolitan Museum.
She credits the efforts of the protestors for the recent decisions made. “Direct action works,” Goldin said. “Our group has fought for over four years to hold the family accountable in the cultural realm with focused, effective action, and with tremendous support from local groups that fought by our side.”
Earlier this year, the Tate museums, the Serpentine Galleries and the British Museum (all in London) also actively separated themselves from the family. The Victoria and Albert Museum, which has an entrance named the Sackler Courtyard, is one of the last institutions that will maintain a relationship with the Sacklers. Museum director, Tristram Hunt, has said, “Taking down the family name would be denying the past.”
Lucy Dundas, a spokesperson for the museum, added, “The removal of names of historic donors is not currently the policy of the V&A. Our trustees keep these questions under regular review.”
Purdue Pharma has been dissolved into a public benefit trust company and members of the Sackler family behind are set to pay $4.5 billion to settle all claims.