The Met Will Turn Down Sackler Money Amid Fury Over the Opioid Crisis
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art said on Wednesday that it would stop accepting gifts from members of the Sackler family linked to the maker of OxyContin, severing ties between one of the world’s most prestigious museums and one of its most prolific philanthropic dynasties.
The decision was months in the making, and followed steps by other museums, including the Tate Modern in London and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, to distance themselves from the family behind Purdue Pharma. On Wednesday, the American Museum of Natural History said that it, too, had ceased taking Sackler donations.
The moves reflect the growing outrage over the role the Sacklers may have played in the opioid crisis, as well as an energized activist movement that is starting to force museums to reckon with where some of their money comes from.
“The museum takes a position of gratitude and respect to those who support us, but on occasion, we feel it’s necessary to step away from gifts that are not in the public interest, or in our institution’s interest,” said Daniel H. Weiss, the president of the Met. “That is what we’re doing here.”
The Met’s relationship with the Sacklers goes back decades, and one of its biggest attractions, the Temple of Dendur, sits in the glass-enclosed Sackler Wing. Mr. Weiss said the museum had no plans to remove the name, as some protesters have demanded.
But its decision to stop accepting future gifts from Sacklers connected to Purdue Pharma, or their foundations, could spur other cultural institutions to follow suit. The family has given tens of millions of dollars and put its name in or on museums, universities and medical schools in the United States, England and Israel.
“An organization of the Met’s reputational heft sets standards in the field,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, a longtime leader of museums.
In the New York area alone, in addition to the Met, the Guggenheim and the Natural History museum, the Metropolitan Opera and the Dia Art Foundation are among the institutions that have received substantial gifts from the Sacklers. Columbia University, which has the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, has said it would not accept further donations for the time being.
In a statement, the Sackler family members with ties to Purdue Pharma said that “while the allegations against our family are false and unfair, we understand that accepting gifts at this time would put the Met in a difficult position.”
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