The Guggenheim and the National Gallery in London are the latest to remove Sackler’s name after the opioid controversy



The National Gallery in London and the Guggenheim Museum in New York are the latest in a series of major art museums to remove the name of the billionaire Sackler family from their walls, leaving only a handful of museums bearing the name after that it has become inexorably linked to the opioid. crisis responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people.


National Gallery staff painted the family’s name last week on a wall in Room 34 – which had previously been called the Sackler Room for more than three decades – after a joint agreement between the museum and the family, a said the National Gallery. Forbes in a report.

The room houses some of the most popular British paintings in the museum’s collection, by artists such as William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, George Stubbs and Joseph Mallord William Turner.

The Guggenheim also renamed its Arts Education Center — which previously bore the family name since it opened in 2001 — in agreement with the Mortimer D. Sackler family, the Guggenheim said. Forbes in a statement, saying the decision was “in the best interests” of the museum.

The Guggenheim and National Gallery announced in 2019 that they would no longer accept funding from the Sackler family after lawsuits alleged family members participated in efforts to downplay the dangers of Purdue Pharma’s drug OxyContin. .

Last month, the Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation and The Sackler Trust announced that member trustees would work with any institution wishing to “reassess its naming obligations to our family” to ensure that institutions “can pursue their missions without distraction. nor unjustified pressure.”


While most major museums around the world have scrapped the Sacklers, the main holdout is the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 2017, the V&A unveiled a new $3 million pavilion and education center named after the family. Museum director Tristram Hunt said The Guardian in 2019 that the V&A had no intention of starting to “take names or deny the past”. Theresa Sackler, wife of the late Mortimer Sackler, co-owner of Purdue Pharma, served on the V&A board for nearly a decade until 2019. The American Museum of Natural History in New York is home to the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genetics and the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genetics. Educational laboratory, both named after the family.

Surprising fact

All the money donated to museums by the Sackler family is unrelated to opioids. The Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C., are named after Arthur Sackler and his descendants, who did not benefit financially from OxyContin . After Arthur’s death in 1987, his descendants sold his stake in the business to his brothers, Mortimer and Raymond. Purdue Pharma was incorporated in 1991 and launched OxyContin five years later.

Key Context

Nearly 500,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In March, members of the Sackler family agreed to pay up to $6 billion to settle state lawsuits over their alleged role in the opioid crisis. The agreement protects them from future civil lawsuits, but not criminal charges. The Sackler Trust and the Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation did not immediately respond to Forbes requests for comments. One of the paintings in the National Gallery’s former Sackler Room, ‘The Fighting Tremiere’ by Turner, was voted the country’s greatest painting in a historic BBC poll, is depicted on Britain’s £20 banknotes and even played a key role in a scene from the 2012 James Bond film celestial fall which was filmed in the Sackler room.

Large number

$10.8 billion. This is what the Sackler family was worth in 2020, according to a Forbes estimate.

Further reading

These museums still bear Sackler’s name despite the controversy over the opioid crisis (Forbes)

The Metropolitan Museum Of Art will remove Sackler’s name from the galleries (Forbes)

The Sacklers agree to a $6 billion settlement of an opioid lawsuit involving their Purdue Pharma (Forbes)

Despite years of litigation, the Sackler family behind OxyContin is still worth billions (Forbes)


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