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Don’t strip the Sackler name from museums: a visceral reminder of human greed

The Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

‘A moment of silence, so we can all appreciate how gracious the Sackler family is. Yes, the family business, Purdue Pharma, is infamous for aggressively marketing the prescription painkiller OxyContin and aiding an opioid epidemic that has killed half a million Americans. And it’s true that nobody in the family has offered an explicit apology for their role in this crisis or suffered meaningful consequences for their actions: the Sacklers are still billionaires and have even won immunity from lawsuits. But that doesn’t mean we should think badly of them. You see, the family has been terribly kind and allowed New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to remove the Sackler name from its galleries. In a statement last week, the Met praised the Sacklers for “this gracious gesture” and gushed about the family’s generous support. There was no mention of the human suffering that precipitated the removal. New York’s Met museum to remove Sackler family name from its galleries Read more

The Met cutting public ties with the Sacklers – the result of a long direct action campaign by the artist Nan Goldin – has been widely celebrated. There’s an expectation that other public institutions will now follow suit. But I’m not sure erasing the family name from museums is right. I was at Tate Britain last week, and seeing the Sackler name had a visceral impact on me: it was more thought-provoking than a lot of the art.

Keep the name in museums, I say. Just add a prominent plaque explaining exactly how the family earned the money it donated. Explain how the chronic underfunding of the arts means that cultural institutes are forced to suck up to dodgy philanthropists. Let everyone who sees the name leave with the realisation that greed is a hell of a drug…’

— by Arwa Mahdawi via The Guardian

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