In their first action in Europe, artist Nan Goldin and the activist group PAIN Sackler took their campaign against the Sackler family, owners of the opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, to the Louvre museum in Paris. Earlier today, July 1, the activists gathered outside the museum’s central pyramid designed by I. M. Pei where they unfurled large red banners reading “Louvre take down the Sackler name” and “Shame on Sackler.” Later on, they staged a die-in in front of the Louvre’s triangular fountain. The activists demand the removal of the Sackler’s name from a large antiquities wing at the iconic Paris museum.
“We do not accept that the Louvre bears the name of a family complicit in crime,” PAIN Sackler wrote in a statement. “We demand that the Louvre rename the Sackler wing and commit to refusing any criminal donations in the future.”
In 1997, the Louvre museum renamed its 12-room Cour Carrée wing of antiquities to the “Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities” after receiving a 10 million French francs (~$1.73 million) donation from the family. “As the most visited museum in the world, the Louvre should set an example of irreproachable ethics by disengaging from its links to this criminal philanthropy,” PAIN Sackler said in its statement.
The group extends its activity to European soil after staging successful protests at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in February. Following the protests, the Guggenheim Museum announced that “does not plan to accept any gifts” from the Sackler family. After reviewing its gift acceptance policy, the Met said it’s suspending gifts from the family, but will not remove their name from one of its wings. The American Museum of Natural History in New York has also announced that it will not accept Sackler money. Tate Modern in London similarly announced that they will no longer receive donations from the Sackler family, although it will not remove references to the family’s philanthropy from its building. Another London institution, The National Portrait Gallery rejected a $1.3 million donation from the Sacklers promised in 2016.
According to PAIN Sackler’s statement, over 1,600 states, cities, and counties in the United States are currently in the process of suing Purdue Pharma. The states of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have also named the Sacklers in their suits.
“Despite knowing the risks, the Sacklers have aggressively marketed the most powerful and addictive painkiller in history, OxyContin, which is directly responsible for the addiction of millions of people and for the overdose deaths of 218,000 over the past twenty years,” the group says, warning that the epidemic is extending to France as well.
“We would like to inform you that the opioid crisis has also hit France, through the actions of the same pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma — via Mundipharma, its international branch, also owned by the Sackler family,” the statement says.
The group added that renaming the Sackler wing is possible since a consultation of the Louvre Museum’s internal bylaws governing donations allows room designations following a donation to be revoked at any time. “We refuse to allow a public cultural institution, funded by the State and taxpayers, to celebrate a murderous enterprise,” PAIN Sackler concluded.
It’s worth noting that there are alternatives to addictive painkillers, which the group wants to bring awareness to. The group includes many advocates for kratom, a supplement used by an estimated two million Americans for pain relief.
In an email to Hyperallergic, the Louvre museum declined to comment on the protest but stated: “The Theresa and Mortimer Sackler Foundation has supported the renovation of the rooms dedicated to Persian and Levantine Art in 1996-1997. Since then, there have been no other donations from the Sackler family.”
Update, 7/1/19, 5:47pm: After this story was published, PAIN Sackler corrected its tally of the states, cities, and counties in the United States that were currently in the process of suing Purdue Pharma. The number is “over 1,600,” not 2,000. The story has been updated.