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Guggenheim Museum “Does Not Plan to Accept Any Gifts” from the Sackler Family

The announcement follows a similar decision by Tate, announced yesterday, that the institution will no longer accept funds from the Sacklers, owners of Purdue Pharma.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (via Mark Pegrum/Flickr)

Today, Hyperallergic confirmed that the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York “does not plan to accept any gifts” from the Sackler family, the controversial owners of Purdue Pharma. The family and drug manufacturer have been accused of misleading medical professionals on the gravity of the drug OxyContin, and are currently the targets of lawsuits on behalf of the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Yesterday, Tate’s board of trustees announced that the museum will no longer accept funds from the Sackler family. In the New York Times’s coverage of the unprecedented decision, the Guggenheim was cited saying that “no contributions from the Sackler family have been received since 2015 and no additional gifts are planned.”

Today, the Guggenheim confirmed with Hyperallergic:

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum received a total of $7 million in gifts from members of the Mortimer D. Sackler family initiated in 1995 and paid out through 2006 to establish and support the Sackler Center for Arts Education, which serves approximately 300,000 youth, adults, and families each year. An additional $2 million was received between 1999 and 2015 to support the museum. No contributions from the Sackler family have been received since 2015. No additional gifts are planned, and the Guggenheim does not plan to accept any gifts.

Earlier this week, London’s National Portrait Gallery decided to not accept a donation of £1 million (~$1.3 million) from the Sackler Trust. This morning, The Art Newspaper revealed that last year a South London Gallery returned a £125,000 (~$165,000) donation from the Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, gifted to build an education center in 2014.

The PAIN Sackler die-in at the Guggenheim in February (photo by Hakim Bishara/Hyperallergic)

These institutional changes follow widespread protests from drug policy advocates including photographer Nan Goldin, best known for her series The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.  In 2017, Goldin founded PAIN Sackler, a drug advocacy organization that demands “all museums, universities, and educational institutions worldwide remove Sackler signage and publicly refuse future funding from the Sacklers.” In February, PAIN Sackler held a die-in at the Guggenheim and then marched to the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a large protest of the Sacklers’s major influence as art philanthropists.

In January 2019, Daniel H. Weiss, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum 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.” Today, the museum informed Hyperallergic that the institution does not yet have an updated statement regarding this review.

Editors note 3/25/19: The Metropolitan Museum of Art has sent Hyperallergic an updated statement on behalf of Daniel Weiss, stating:

The issue of Sackler funding reflects a complexity that is common in this area. The Sacklers began supporting The Met over 50 years ago – decades before the invention of opioids and the public health crisis that has later ensued. The contemporary Sackler family is large and there are varying relationships among these branches with Purdue Pharma (some have had no relationship with the company for decades). Incidentally, the Museum has not received gifts from the Sackler family over the past two years.

All of this demonstrates the need for the Museum’s leadership team to be highly deliberative. We will continue our review of the Museum’s gift acceptance policies, will adjust wherever necessary, and will be transparent in our process and conclusions.

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