Met Museum removes Sackler's name from wing on opioid ties

In the wake of growing outrage over the role the Sacklers may have played in the opioid crisis, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the ...


In the wake of growing outrage over the role the Sacklers may have played in the opioid crisis, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Sackler family jointly announced Thursday that the Sackler name will be removed from seven exhibition spaces, including the wing that houses the Temple of Dendur.

“Our families have always been strong supporters of the Met, and we believe it is in the best interest of the museum and the important mission it serves,” descendants of Drs Mortimer Sackler and Raymond Sackler said in a statement. “The first of these donations was made almost 50 years ago, and now we are passing the torch to others who may wish to get involved in supporting the museum.”

The announcement marks a significant break between the world’s largest museum and one of the world’s greatest benefactors, a powerful symbol of the upheaval underway in cultural institutions as to where their donations come from.

“We are seeing museums move from elite custodians to arbiter of social change,” said Dr Rebekah Beaulieu, editor of “The State of Museums: Voices from the Field,” a book published in 2018. “Museums are increasingly expected to be institutions held in the public trust, and therefore accountable to the general public. “

Other the museums refused Money Sackler, like the Serpentine Gallery in London, and some were quicker to remove the Sackler name, including the Louvre in Paris. But since the Met is a leader in the field, its announcement is likely to more establishments reconsider their own Sackler galleries.

“The Met is an indicator,” said Patrick radden keefe, whose book on the Sacklers and the opioid crisis, “Empire of Pain”, was published this year. “It is in some ways the institution that is most related to the Sacklers in the public mind because the Sackler Wing is so iconic and because it was one of the early beneficiaries of their very important philanthropy. . Institutions have kind of watched the Met. “

The museum had already severed ties with family funding, announcement in 2019 that he would no longer accept gifts from the Sacklers, given their ties to the maker of OxyContin.

Two spaces at the Met will continue to bear their Sackler name: the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in the Asian Wing and the Marietta Lutze Sackler Gallery in the Modern and Contemporary Wing (which will likely continue in its renovation).

Although the Met does not explain this, the two galleries are associated with the Arthur Sackler family, who died in 1987 before the creation of OxyContin. His side of the family, which supported institutions like the Smithsonian and the Brooklyn Museum, sold his stake in the pharmaceutical company after his death.

“The Met was built on the philanthropy of generations of donors – and the Sacklers have been among our most generous supporters,” said Dan Weiss, President and CEO of the Met. “This gracious gesture of the Sacklers helps the museum continue to serve this generation and future generations. We greatly appreciate it.

Immediately after the Met’s announcement, several other museums with spaces named Sackler said they currently have no similar plans, including the National Gallery in London – where the Sackler Room contains some of the museum’s artefacts. most popular works – and the Victoria & Albert Museum, whose entrance is called Sackler Courtyard.

As the founders of Purdue Pharma, which produced the opioid pain reliever OxyContin, the Sackler family has come under increased scrutiny in recent years for the company’s role in bringing the drug to market and addressing the crisis. opioids.

Although their total cultural contributions over the years have not been quantified, the Sackler family has been named among the richest in the country. by Forbes, who in 2020 valued his net worth at $ 10.8 billion. And Keefe wrote that art scholar Thomas Lawton once compared Arthur, Sackler’s older brother, to “a modern Medici.”

The Sackler family’s contributions to the Met go back decades. At the Sackler Wing dedication in 1978, hosted by the Met and three Sackler brothers, the Martha Graham Dance Company performed a new work at the Temple of Dendur, a gift from Egypt to the United States.

Nan Goldin, a photographer who overcame OxyContin addiction, led protests at institutions that receive Sackler money; in March 2018, she and her supporters empty pill bottles dumped in the reflecting pool of the Sackler Wing.

Goldin, who founded the anti-Sackler advocacy group in 2017 PAIN with a group of artists, activists and people living with addictions, said Thursday she was “happy” with the Met’s announcement. “It doesn’t really help the overdose crisis, but at least it holds the source responsible,” she said in a phone interview. “This is part of the change that must take place. “

Other New York cultural beneficiaries of the Sacklers include the Guggenheim, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Dia Art Foundation.

In recent years there has been a growing chorus of protest around the business relationships of trustees and donors. In 2019, a vice-president of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Warren B. Kanders, resigned from the board after months of protests against the sale of tear gas by his company.

Thursday’s announcement was notable as it was posted by members of the Sackler family as well as the Met.

Likewise, when the American Museum of Natural History announced last year As his equestrian memorial to Theodore Roosevelt – which had long attracted objections as a symbol of colonialism and racism – was falling, a member of the Roosevelt family issued a statement approving the withdrawal. The statue walks towards a presidential library in North Dakota as a long-term loan from New York City.

Alex Marshall contributed reporting from London.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Met Museum removes Sackler's name from wing on opioid ties
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