After aggressively pushing opioids towards manufacturers and paying for their family name on museum exhibits, parks, and even a star, the Sackler family now faces pushback from institutions.
Profiting in the millions from pharmaceutical demand as a result of the opioid crisis and their personal connections to Purdue Pharma, it was no challenge for the family to obtain their place in some of the world's most well-known establishments.
In the past, several esteemed museums like the Met, Tate Modern, the Louvre, and the Guggenheim have accepted the family's financial offerings and dedicated wings to the Sacklers, but now, many institutions refuse to accept their donations.
Last week, the American Museum of Natural History stated that it would cease all donations from the Sacklers. This followed action taken by both the Tate Modern in London and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York to distance themselves from the family following public uproar.
A February banner hung by protestors from one of the higher floors read, "TAKE DOWN THEIR NAME".
Daniel H. Weiss, the president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art told the New York Times, “the museum takes a position of gratitude and respect to those who support us, but on occasion, we feel it’s necessary to step away from gifts that are not in the public interest, or in our institution’s interest.”
Since the late 1970s, the Sackler family has been donating to the Met, where they contributed to the construction of the Sackler wing which cost $9.5 million ($36 million in today’s dollars) to build.
Weiss stated that, “We would only not accept gifts from people if it in some way challenges or is counter to the core mission of the institution, in exceptional cases.” He noted, “The OxyContin crisis in this country is a legitimate and full-blown crisis.”
In response, the Sackler family has said that “while the allegations against our family are false and unfair, we understand that accepting gifts at this time would put the Met in a difficult position.” The statement continued, “Our goal has always been to support the valuable work of such outstanding organizations, and we remain committed to doing so.”
So, what was the domino that prompted the multitudinous measures of resistance?
It all started when protest of artists among other civilians who called for the museums to remove Warren B. Kanders from their board. As chief executive of Safariland Group, Kanders sells tear gas and other equipment to law enforcement which has been used on the Mexican border.
Last month, artists connected to Whitney Biennial exhibition of contemporary American art even signed a letter calling for Kanders' resignation.
Money, ethics, and art all come into play with actions of collective opposition to donations from the Sackler family. And while these public efforts don’t halt the opioid crisis, they do send a clear message big pharma companies.