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Guggenheim removes Sackler name over ties to opioid crisis
The museum and the family have agreed to rename an educational center. The National Gallery in London is also removing the Sackler name from its walls. Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

by Zachary Small



NEW YORK, NY.- The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City quietly distanced itself from the Sacklers last week, erasing the family’s name from an education center over the family’s ties to the opioid crisis. There had been no public announcement.

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

This week, the National Gallery in London 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 come to an end.”

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

There has been a rising tide of resentment because of the Sacklers’ ties to OxyContin. Members of the family founded Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, which has been regularly blamed for contributing to the opioid crisis.

Starting four years ago, photographer Nan Goldin has been leading a series of surprise protests highlighting how museums have benefited from the family.

In 2019, Goldin and her supporters turned to the Guggenheim, marching up its spiral rotunda with anti-Sackler banners while throwing a blizzard of phony OxyContin prescriptions from the balconies and staging a die-in.

Before that, in March 2018, Goldin and her supporters dumped empty pill bottles into the Sackler Wing’s reflecting pool at the Met.

“Direct action works,” Goldin said in a statement Tuesday. “Our group has fought for over four years to hold the family accountable in the cultural realm with focused, effective action, and with tremendous support from local groups that fought by our side.”

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

The Victoria and Albert Museum, whose entrance is named the Sackler Courtyard, is one of the last major cultural institutions with a relationship to the family. Dame Theresa Sackler was a trustee there until 2019, and the museum director, Tristram Hunt, has said that taking down the family name would be “denying the past.”

“The removal of names of historic donors is not currently the policy of the V&A,” Lucy Dundas, a spokesperson for the museum, said in a statement Tuesday. “Our trustees keep these questions under regular review.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.










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