The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York is the latest cultural institution to turn down donations from the wealthy Sackler family, which is being implicated in the opioid addiction epidemic.
The Guggenheim said last week that it will not be accepting any further gifts from the family of Mortimer D. Sackler, a philanthropist and former board member, the New York Times reported.
Just the day before, Tate, which runs some of the most important art museums in Britain, said that “in the present circumstances we do not think it right to seek or accept further donations from the Sacklers.” And before that, Britain’s National Portrait Gallery announced it would not accept a long-discussed $1.3 million donation from one of the family’s foundations, the London-based Sackler Trust.
The Sackler family is facing lawsuits for millions of dollars over overdose deaths from synthetic opioid painkillers. Members of the family own Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, the Times said, “a powerful painkiller whose aggressive marketing in the 1990s is widely seen as a root cause of the opioid crisis. In 2007, Purdue’s parent company pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge of misbranding OxyContin with the intent to defraud or mislead.”
The Times reported that the moves by the cultural institutions were “a potent sign of the deepening disquiet within the art world over the family’s connection to the opioid crisis. The newspaper said:
In the statement, the museum said members of the family had donated $9 million to the Guggenheim between 1995 and 2015, including $7 million to establish and support the Sackler Center for Arts Education. The spokeswoman said the center’s name was contractual and the museum had no plans to change it. “No contributions from the Sackler family have been received since 2015,” the statement said. “No additional gifts are planned, and the Guggenheim does not plan to accept any gifts.”
More than 200,000 people have died in the United States over the last two decades from overdoses of prescription opioids, the Times said.