A 2019 protest organized by PAIN at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The V&A Dundee in Scotland is a branch of the V&A Museum. (photo Naomi Polonsky/Hyperallergic)

The V&A Dundee museum in Scotland has removed a plaque honoring the disgraced Sackler family from its entrance hall. The Scottish design museum accepted a £500,000 (~$628,000) donation from the Sackler Trust prior to its 2018 opening, prompting Scottish politicians, activists, and residents to urge the institution to return the funds and cut ties with the family and its philanthropic arm altogether.

The Sackler family has been embroiled in a decades-long scandal surrounding its direct hand in and profit from the opioid epidemic, which has claimed over half of a million lives across the United States and Canada, through its company Purdue Pharma’s aggressive marketing and downplaying of OxyContin’s addictive qualities.

“Along with many other cultural organisations in the UK and abroad, V&A Dundee has removed signage relating to the Sackler Trust,” a spokesperson for V&A Dundee said in a statement to Hyperallergic. “It was agreed by V&A Dundee’s Board to remove the final piece of Sackler Trust crediting in August 2023,” the spokesperson continued.

However, the spokesperson confirmed that the institution is not likely to return “the historic capital support” from the Sackler Trust, stating that it was “received for the creation of the museum, which were (sic) made before V&A Dundee opened in 2018.”

The plaque removal, initially reported by the Courier, happened just under a year after the Dundee museum removed an honorary sign for the Sacklers from its Oak Room last September.

The waterfront museum is a branch of the Victoria & Albert Museum, though its operations and funding are separate from the London institution, which finally opted to drop the Sackler name from its premises last October — years after artist Nan Goldin’s advocacy organization PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) staged one of its “die-in” protests there. The Dundee institution initially doubled down in 2019 after criticisms began to mount, acknowledging the Sackler Trust’s “historic support” for its inception along with that of dozens of other cultural and educational institutions among other organizations in the United Kingdom.

In early 2022, the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma settlement enabled US-based institutions to drop the Sackler name from their premises without any penalty, and the name quickly began to fall from the walls and plaques in institutions across the US and the UK. The British Museum, the V&A London, and the National Gallery in London all dropped the name last year. However, a judge recently paused the settlement — which would have facilitated the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy-to-reorganization plan and capped the Sacklers’s total culpability at $6B to grant immunity from future lawsuits — over objections to the billionaire family taking advantage of legal avenues designed for debtors in “financial distress.” The hold means that it could take another year for settlement payouts to be processed and administered.

Rhea Nayyar (she/her) is a New York-based teaching artist who is passionate about elevating minority perspectives within the academic and editorial spheres of the art world. Rhea received her BFA in Visual...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *