As criticism mounts over its purported connection with America’s opioid crisis, the Sackler family may be falling out of favor with the art world.
British gallery group Tate said Thursday that it will no longer accept donations from the family, which owns pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma LP.
The Sacklers have donated more than £4 million – about $5.3 million – to the group in the past, a Tate spokesperson told CNN.
Purdue, which produces prescription opioid OxyContin, has been accused of contributing to the opioid crisis in the United States by aggressively marketing OxyContin while denying its association with overdose and death.
“The Sackler family has given generously to Tate in the past, as they have to a large number of UK arts institutions. We do not intend to remove references to this historic philanthropy. However, in the present circumstances we do not think it right to seek or accept further donations from the Sacklers,” Tate said in a statement.
In a statement issued to CNN, a spokesperson for the Mortimer and Raymond Sackler family, the branch of the family dealing with the Tate group, said: “We deeply sympathize with all the communities, families and individuals affected by the addiction crisis in America. The allegations made against family members in relation to this are strongly denied and will be vigorously defended in court.”
The Tate group, comprising London’s Tate Modern and Tate Britain galleries, as well as Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives, follows London’s National Portrait Gallery in refusing donations from the Sacklers.
On Wednesday, the National Portrait Gallery announced, in conjunction with the Sackler Trust, that a planned £1 million donation from the family – around $1.3 million – would no longer go ahead.
Purdue Pharma LP and the Sackler family have been the subject of a series of more than 400 lawsuits, including one from the Massachusetts attorney general’s office, newly unredacted in January. The lawsuit alleges that Purdue relentlessly promoted OxyContin to doctors and patients while concealing the risk of addiction, overdose and death posed by the drug.
The lawsuit also claims that the Sacklers made more than $4 billion in profits from opioids between April 2008 and 2016. Purdue has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
In March 2018, anti-opioid protesters staged a demonstration at the Sackler Wing of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was funded by a 1970s donation from Sackler brothers Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond.
The protest was organized by Nan Goldin, an American photographer and survivor of opioid abuse. Goldin also threatened to reject a retrospective of her work at the National Portrait Gallery if it accepted the Sackler family donation. On Instagram, she commended both Tate and the National Portrait Gallery’s decision to stop taking donations from the family.
Art institutions worldwide continue to bear the Sackler name: Their donations funded a courtyard at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, a wing at the Louvre, an arts education center at the Guggenheim Museum of Art and a center for feminist art at the Brooklyn Museum. The American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian have also received donations from the family.