Museums Cut Ties With Sacklers as Outrage Over Opioid Crisis Grows - The New York Times
In Paris, at the Louvre, lovers of Persian art knew there was only one place to go: the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities. Want to find the long line for the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Head for the soaring, glass-walled Sackler Wing.
For decades, the Sackler family has generously supported museums worldwide, not to mention numerous medical and educational institutions including Columbia University, where there is a Sackler Institute, and Oxford, where there is a Sackler Library.
But now some favorite Sackler charities are reconsidering whether they want the money at all, and several have already rejected any future gifts, concluding that some family members’ ties to the opioid crisis outweighed the benefits of their six- and sometimes seven-figure checks.
In a remarkable rebuke to one of the world’s most prominent philanthropic dynasties, the prestigious Tate museums in London and the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York, where a Sackler sat on the board for many years, decided in the last week that they would no longer accept gifts from their longtime Sackler benefactors. Britain’s National Portrait Gallery announced it had jointly decided with the Sackler Trust to cancel a planned $1.3 million donation, and an article in The Art Newspaper disclosed that a museum in South London had returned a family donation last year.
On Monday, as the embarrassment grew with every new announcement, a Sackler trust and a family foundation in Britain issued statements saying they would suspend further philanthropy for the moment.
“The current press attention that these legal cases in the United States is generating has created immense pressure on the scientific, medical, educational and arts institutions here in the U.K., large and small, that I am so proud to support,” Theresa Sackler, the chair of the Sackler Trust, said in a statement. “This attention is distracting them from the important work that they do.”
The Guggenheim’s move was perhaps the most surprising, and not just because it was the first American institution known to cut ties with its Sackler supporters.
Mortimer D.A. Sackler, a son of Mortimer Sackler, sat on the Guggenheim’s board for nearly 20 years and the family gave the museum $9 million between 1995 and 2015, including $7 million to establish and support the Sackler Center for Arts Education.
The Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum had been the scene of protests related to the Sacklers. One last month, led by the photographer Nan Goldin, who overcame an OxyContin addiction, involved dropping thousands of slips of white paper from the iconic gallery spiral into its rotunda, a reference to a court document that quoted Richard Sackler, who ran Purdue Pharma, heralding a “blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”
Last Thursday, the Guggenheim, like other American museums, stated simply that “no contributions from the Sackler family have been received since 2015 and no additional gifts are planned.”
But a day later, amid more articles about British museums rejecting Sackler money, the Guggenheim amended its statement: “The Guggenheim does not plan to accept any gifts.”