Today, Tate’s board of trustees announced that the museum would no longer accept funds from the Sackler family, given the clan’s controversial history with opioid drug production. The Sackler family owns Purdue Pharma, a company under fire for its role in the opioid crisis.
In recent years, Tate has received about £4 million (~$5.2 million) from the Sackler family trusts, according to the BBC.
In a statement, Tate wrote:
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.
Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers are currently the targets of lawsuits on behalf of the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut for misleading medical professionals on the gravity of the drug. OxyContin is often compared to heroin and is for many, an introduction to the drug (80% of heroin users were first prescription opioid users, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse.)
Earlier this week, London’s National Portrait Gallery decided to not accept a donation of £1 million (~$1.3 million) from the Sackler Trust, which was first promised in 2016. The institution had been considering the pledge in an internal review for more than a year.
“The allegations against family members are vigorously denied, but to avoid being a distraction for the National Portrait Gallery, we have decided not to proceed at this time with the donation,” the Sackler Trust added in a joint statement with the museum.
In February, revered photographer Nan Goldin, a vocal opponent of the Sackler family’s opioid-manufacturing company Purdue Pharma, said she would not show at the museum if they accepted the gift.
In 2017, Goldin founded PAIN Sackler, a drug advocacy organization that calls out the art world for its close quarters with the Sackler family. The organization demands “all museums, universities, and educational institutions worldwide remove Sackler signage and publicly refuse future funding from the Sacklers,” They also demand Purdue Pharma give at least 50% of their profits to organizations working to solve the opioid crisis, and that the Sacklers use their personal funds to do so as well.
In February, PAIN Sackler held a die-in at the Guggenheim and then marched to the steps of the Met for a large protest of the Sacklers‘s major influence as art philanthropists.
In January 2018, the Metropolitan Museum in New York (which has also received major gifts from the Sacklers), said the institution “is currently engaging in a further review of our detailed gift acceptance policies, and we will have more to report in due course.” Last week, Scottish politicians condemned the newly opened Victoria & Albert Museum’s Dundee branch for accepting a £500,000 (~$657,000) grant from the Sackler Trust.
“My message is for all institutions everywhere, which are taking Sackler money,” Goldin told the Observer in February. “People are pushing back and, if they want to maintain their standing as cultural institutions and educational institutions, they have to listen to the people and they have to do the right thing. They have to make a decision.”