Days after Nan Goldin was arrested outside of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office in protest over the lack of the governor’s approval to make safe injection sites available in New York City—as part of the artist’s ongoing campaign against the opioid crisis—the artist decried a proposed settlement that would bring over 2,000 lawsuits against the Sackler family and their drug company Purdue Pharma to a close.
Last Wednesday, Goldin and 12 other protesters were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. They were protesting Cuomo’s inaction after NY Mayor Bill de Blasio committed to setting up safe injection sites in New York to prevent opioid overdoses. The protests came after NBC News leaked information about a global settlement in the Sackler lawsuits that would require the Sacklers to pay $3 billion dollars out of pocket and give up control of Purdue Pharma.
In an interview with The Art Newspaper, Goldin called the settlement, which would affect lawsuits in around 48 states, a “completely unacceptable” public relations stunt that “makes it look as though they’re paying their dues.”
The Sacklers and Purdue Pharma have been sued by states, cities, towns, and tribes for misleading the public regarding the addictive qualities of OxyContin. The settlement would give plaintiffs $10 to $12 billion from the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma combined. The company would also distribute addiction treatment drugs to the public at no cost.
In August, Goldin backed the state of Arizona’s attempt to bring a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma to the U.S. Supreme Court. Goldin told The Art Newspaper that rather than settle, the Sackler family should face trial and their wealth should be “clawed back” more significantly. According to Forbes, the Sacklers are the 19th wealthiest family in the United States, with a combined worth of at least $13 billion.
“They’ve ignited a public health emergency and they need to make restitution and they need to be held responsible,” Goldin said. “People who don’t know think, wow, 10 billion dollars […] but it doesn’t begin to pay for the damage.”
In recent months, Goldin, along with her activist group Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (PAIN), have staged protests at museums around the world — including the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Louvre — to draw attention to the funding museums have received from the Sackler family. The Met, the Guggenheim, and the Tate Museum group have all since renounced funding from the Sacklers, and the Louvre has removed the Sackler name from their walls.
According to NBC News, the Sackler’s company has made $35 billion off of the sale of OxyContin, playing a key role in a public health crisis that kills over 130 Americans per day and as of last February, had cost the United States at least $1 trillion.