Art Market

The Metropolitan Museum will no longer accept money from Oxycontin profiteers in the Sackler family.

Benjamin Sutton
May 15, 2019 6:58PM, via New York Times

The Sackler Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Paulo JC Nogueira, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has joined the ranks of major institutions which no longer accept money from members of the Sackler family with ties to OxyContin and the opioid crisis. The museum has no plans to rename its Sackler Wing—which houses one of its star attractions, the Temple of Dendur, and was the focal point of a protest led by artist Nan Goldin and her group P.A.I.N. last year—according to the New York Times. In January, following a slew of lawsuits against members of the Sackler family, the Met had said that it was reexamining its policies around donations.

Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president, told the Times:

The museum takes a position of gratitude and respect to those who support us, but on occasion, we feel it’s necessary to step away from gifts that are not in the public interest, or in our institution’s interest. [. . .] That is what we’re doing here. [. . .] We would only not accept gifts from people if it in some way challenges or is counter to the core mission of the institution, in exceptional cases. [. . .] The OxyContin crisis in this country is a legitimate and full-blown crisis.

In a statement quoted by the Times, members of the Sackler family connected with Purdue Pharm said:

while the allegations against our family are false and unfair, we understand that accepting gifts at this time would put the Met in a difficult position. [. . .] We respect the Met and that is the last thing we would want to do.

The Met’s neighbor on the other side of Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), has decided to follow suit, revealing on Wednesday that it will also no longer be accepting donations from the Sacklers.

The Met and AMNH join a growing list of museums cutting ties and suspending agreements with members of the Sackler family (and their charitable organization), who have profited from sales of OxyContin. In March, the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Sackler Trust revealed that they were pausing a planned £1-million ($1.3 million) grant; the Sackler Trust subsequently announced it was suspending its philanthropic activities in the U.K. The same month, the Tate museums group (which operates Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool, and Tate St Ives) revealed that it, too, will no longer accept gifts from the Sacklers. Also in March, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York announced it would no longer accept donations from the family of the late Mortimer D. Sackler, who had been a Guggenheim board member and a co-owner of Purdue Pharma, which manufactures OxyContin.

Benjamin Sutton