On Thursday, the Tate became the latest institution to reject any further donations from the Sackler family, the controversial owner of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, which is alleged to have played a major role in driving the opioid crisis.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Tate wrote: “The Sackler family has given generously to Tate in the past, as they have to a large number of U.K. arts institutions. We do not intend to remove references to this historic philanthropy. However, in the present circumstances we do not think it right to seek or accept further donations from the Sacklers.”
The Tate is not the first museum to reject donations from the Sackler family. On Wednesday, the National Portrait Gallery in Britain and the Sackler family announced in a joint statement that they would not be moving forward with a donation of about $1.3 million.
“It has become evident that recent reporting of allegations made against Sackler family members may cause this new donation to deflect the National Portrait Gallery from its important work,” a Sackler family spokesperson said in the statement, while adding that the family “vigorously denied” allegations it had played a role in perpetuating the opioid crisis.
The Sackler family is a major donor to art organizations, with museums and wings all over the world bearing the Sackler name, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre. The Tate, which operates four galleries in Britain, has accepted about 4 million pounds, or more than $5 million, from the Sackler family in the past, according to BBC News.
Yet many museums are currently reexamining their relationship with the Sackler family following a series of lawsuits accusing the family of aggressively marketing OxyContin, a powerful opioid, without disclosing the risks. The latest lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office alleges that the Sackler family made $4 billion in opioid profits between 2008 and 2018.
In January, a spokesperson for the Met announced that it would be conducting a “further review” of its relationship with the Sacklers and other donors. “The Sackler family has been connected with The Met for more than a half century. The family is a large extended group and their support of The Met began decades before the opioid crisis,” the spokesperson said. “The Met is currently engaging in a further review of our detailed gift acceptance policies, and we will have more to report in due course.”
Every day, more than 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose, according to data from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.