‘This is blood money’: Tate shuns Sacklers and others urged to follow

Pressure builds on other institutions to disavow Sackler family over OxyContin, powerful painkiller linked to opioid deaths

Earlier this year at the Guggenheim in New York, activists objecting to donations from the Sackler family draped protest banners from the museums famous spiraling balconies, dropped flyers down through the atrium and pretended to die all over the floor. A gobsmacked public looked on.


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In London, Tate Modern has escaped a similar fate.

On Thursday, the Tate group announced it would not take any more donations from the Sacklers, the family whose most prominent billionaire members own the company that makes OxyContin, a prescription painkiller implicated in Americas opioids crisis.

The company, Purdue Pharma, and eight leading Sackler family members are being investigated and sued, accused of knowingly misleading the public about the dangers of OxyContin and profiting from sales and marketing strategies that deceived doctors and rewarded them for over-prescribing the drug.

Those cases are drawing increasing attention, as are protests by activists who want arts and academic institutions in the US, UK and elsewhere to eschew Sackler money.

Tate Modern has received 4m from the Sacklers. Its central escalators are named for the family.

The American art photographer and activist Nan Goldin, whose campaign group Pain (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) was behind the demonstration at the Guggenheim and others at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is due to have an exhibition at Tate Modern, for a year from 15 April.

If Tate had not disavowed Sackler money by then, Goldin was ready to create chaos.

It was going to be creative, it was going to utilize the Sackler escalator that goes right up to the the gallery Im showing in, Goldin told the Guardian this week.

The effort potentially would have involved throwing thousands of fake prescriptions for OxyContin, like confetti, and showering the space with fake pill bottles. There would also have been a banner drop into the turbine hall, she said, as the group did in the atrium at the Guggenheim.


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Goldin, who founded her campaign in early 2018, about a year into her recovery from a near-fatal addiction to opioids she suffered after being prescribed OxyContin in 2014, said she was so happy this would not have to happen.

The Tate decision came two days after the National Portrait Gallery in London said it was not going to take a 1m gift offered by the Sacklers. Last month, Goldin said she would decline a retrospective offered by the museum if it accepted the gift. Tate Modern had already purchased a copy of Goldins seminal work, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, so she could not have stopped the exhibition there.

Its not easy to give back money or get rid of a name

Purdue Pharma and the members of the Sackler family vigorously refute all allegations and deny wrongdoing.

Nonetheless, pressure is building on other institutions that have accepted millions from the branches of the family that became billionaires with profits from OxyContin while, according to one lawsuit, more than 200,000 people died in the US between 1999 and 2016 from overdoses directly related to prescription opioids.

On Friday, the Guggenheim also made a stunning announcement, as reported by the Hyperallergic.com online arts magazine. It would not, it said, accept future Sackler philanthropy.

A statement read: The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum received a total of $7m in gifts from members of the Mortimer D Sackler family initiated in 1995 and paid out through 2006 to establish and support the Sackler Center for Arts Education, which serves approximately 300,000 youth, adults, and families each year.

An additional $2m was received between 1999 and 2015 to support the museum. No contributions from the Sackler family have been received since 2015. No additional gifts are planned, and the Guggenheim does not plan to accept any gifts.

The Sackler gallery at the Serpentine in London. So far the Serpentine and other galleries have made no public comment. Photograph: Andrew Aitchison/Corbis via Getty Images

The continuing controversy has echoes of fights over cultural sponsorship by tobacco companies and the oil industry and comes at a time when many in the arts are strapped for cash.

There have been no announcements from other Sackler beneficiaries such as the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Serpentine Gallery in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Met in New York, the Dia Art Foundation and universities including Cornell, Stanford, Harvard, Tufts and MIT.

This is blood money and should be returned, said David Callahan, author and the founder of the website Inside Philanthropy, adding: Its not easy to give back money or get rid of a name, but not taking any new money, that would seem to be an easier call for institutions and pretty obviously a smart decision at this point.

But he predicted many institutions are probably just hoping the furore will blow over.


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Yale University is home to the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Institute for Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences, funded by a founder of Purdue Pharma and his widow. It also has two professorships endowed by the Sacklers. In a statement, it noted the devastating effects of the opioid crisis.

The university also said Yale is a leader in research and educational efforts to combat this epidemic and added: We are aware of the ongoing efforts to determine potential contributing factors in the current opioid epidemic, including through legal processes, and will continue to monitor the outcomes of those efforts.

Sackler gifts, the statement said, had helped advance the universitys mission in a number of academic disciplines.

Columbia University in New York is not waiting. It recently said it had re-evaluated accepting donations from the Sackler familys philanthropies and [was] not taking gifts from them.

On the other side of the country the University of Washington (UW) is discontinuing a program funded with $1.5m in Sackler money that has supported 21 post-doctoral researchers.

In 2017, discussions were under way about a potential new gift. Then Esquire published a groundbreaking investigation, The Secretive Family Making Billions From the Opioid Crisis. That was followed by an expos in the New Yorker, The Family That Built an Empire of Pain.

I think, like everyone, we were surprised by the extent of what was reported in terms of the alleged practices of members of the family in relation to the marketing [of OxyContin], said Victor Balta, a spokesman for UW.

The university decided we needed to take fairly immediate action, he said. It did not broadcast the December 2017 decision to refuse more Sackler money and the news only recently emerged.

As a state university, to be responsible to the public who count on us to uphold their trust, we felt we needed to suspend the relationship, Balta said, adding that the university would now be watching as the legal process plays out.

Balta said the university did not know if it could find alternative funding to resume the relevant research, which partly focused on innovations for restoring motor function in people with spinal cord injuries.

An end to the villification

Mike Moore is a former Mississippi attorney general who is now one of the attorneys representing more than 1,200 cities and counties suing Purdue and other companies in federal court in Ohio.

He has accused the Sacklers of reputation laundering through philanthropy and urged the family to settle the legal cases.

Moore helped secure a historic $246bn Big Tobacco settlement against leading cigarette companies in 1997 and a $20bn settlement against BP for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He recalls talks with one cigarette boss prior who was desperate for an end to the vilification.

Moore said: He wanted to be able to go to cocktail parties, charity functions and country clubs again without people coming up to him and saying, Arent you the guys in the business of killing people?

This is a little different because its a drug company and maybe they did some good but they did an awful lot of bad.


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  • This article was amended on Sunday 24 March, to include the news that the Guggenheim will no longer accept Sackler gifts.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific

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