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Recent headlines involving Nan Goldin have chronicled the artist’s outspoken activism against the art world’s complicity in the opioid epidemic, which has caused an exponential climb in overdose-related deaths over the last two decades. (Researchers estimate that over 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017 alone.) Goldin, herself, has openly discussed her four-year addiction to the prescription painkiller OxyContin.
As part of a five-day sale organized by the collective Magnum Photos in partnership with the nonprofit Aperture Foundation, the photographer is offering $100 square prints. Their proceeds will directly fund her activist group, PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), which she founded earlier this year as a guerrilla campaign to demonstrate against the Sackler family’s ubiquity in many prominent art institutions.
Currently, the descendants of Mortimer and Raymond Sackler are the principal owners of Purdue Pharma, the company that put OxyContin on the market and then pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2007 that it had mislabeled the drug and misled the public about its addictive properties, agreeing to pay an unprecedented $600 million fine to state and federal agencies, including Medicaid. Elizabeth A. Sackler, a prominent cultural philanthropist whose name adorns many museum walls, is from a different branch of the family and has publicly supported Goldin’s campaign.
There are over 120 other artists exhibiting in Magnum Photos’ “Crossing” sale, with signed or estate-stamped six-by-six inch prints for only $100 each. The list also includes Martin Parr, Catherine Opie, Stephen Shore, and Bruce Davidson.
Alongside Goldin, other artists are donating their sales to political causes. Photographer and professional skateboarder Ed Templeton is donating profits from his sales to Skateistan, a nonprofit organization that runs youth empowerment programs in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and South Africa. Artist Vik Muniz’s profits will go to Escola Vidigal, his nonprofit school project in Brazil.
Goldin is selling signed prints of a 2016 photograph called “Drugs on the Rug.” For the sale, the artist released the following statement:
I was addicted to OxyContin for four years. I overdosed but I came back. I decided to make the personal political. I’ve started a group called P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) to address the opioid crisis. We are a group of artists, activists and addicts that believe in direct action. We target the Sackler family, who manufactured and pushed OxyContin, through the museums and universities that carry their name. We speak for the 250,000 bodies that no longer can.
The prints sale ends at 11:59 pm EST on November 2.