Guggenheim removes Sackler’s name for ties to the opioid crisis

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum quietly distanced itself from the Sacklers last week, deleting the family name from an education center due to the family’s ties to the opioid crisis. There had been no public announcement.

“The Guggenheim family and the Mortimer D. Sackler family have agreed to rename the arts center,” said Sara Fox, a spokesperson for the museum on Tuesday. “We believe this decision is in the best interest of the museum and the vital work it does.”

This week, London’s National Gallery also ended its relationship with the Sacklers, announcing in a joint statement with a foundation representing part of the family that “the naming of Room 34 as the Sackler Gallery should end”.

The moves come five months after the Metropolitan Museum of Art removed the name Sackler from one of its most famous galleries, which houses the Temple of Dendur, and six other exhibition spaces.

There has been a growing tide of resentment over the Sacklers’ ties to OxyContin. Family members founded Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, which has been regularly accused of contributing to the opioid crisis.

Beginning four years ago, photographer Nan Goldin led a series of surprise protests to highlight how museums benefited the family.

In 2019, Goldin and his supporters turned to the Guggenheimmarching up his spiral rotunda with anti-Sackler banners while throwing a blizzard of false OxyContin prescriptions from the balconies and staging a die-in.

Even earlier, in March 2018, Goldin and his supporters downloaded empty bottles of pills in the reflective pool of the Sackler Wing at the Met.

“Direct action works,” Goldin said in a statement Tuesday. “Our group has fought for over four years to hold the family responsible in the cultural realm with targeted and effective action and with the formidable support of the local groups who fought alongside us.”

In London, the National Gallery is not the first cultural institution to commit to removing the Sackler name from its walls. Earlier this year, the Tate museums, the Serpentine Galleries and the British Museum distanced himself from his family.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, whose entrance is called the Sackler Courtyard, is one of the last great cultural institutions related to the family. Dame Theresa Sackler was trustee there until 2019 and the museum director, Tristram Hunt, he said that removing the family name would mean “denying the past”.

“Removing the names of historical donors is not currently the policy of the V&A,” said Lucy Dundas, a spokeswoman for the museum on Tuesday. “Our administrators keep these questions under regular review.”