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The Louvre in Paris has removed or taped over the Sackler name on panels and signage throughout the museum. Courtesy of P.A.I.N.
The Louvre in Paris has removed or taped over the Sackler name on panels and signage throughout the museum. Courtesy of P.A.I.N.

Following P.A.I.N. Protest in Paris, Louvre Removes Sackler Name

Following Nan Goldin and the activist group P.A.I.N.’s first protest in Europe against the Sackler family and their role in the opioid epidemic, the Louvre has removed the Sackler name from the walls of its museum. While the decision to take down the family’s name has major significance to the art world and the broader public, P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) claims the institution tried to covertly eliminate the name from the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities and its website in an attempt to “rewrite history.”

P.A.I.N. cited an interview featuring Jean-Luc Martinez, the president of the Louvre, that aired on the French radio station RTL on Tuesday as one of the reasons why it was suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the decision. In the interview, Martinez alleges that the Sackler name had already been removed as a result of a museum policy that stipulates that rooms cannot bear donors’ names for a period of more than twenty years. He also stated that the Sacklers donated to the Louvre in 1993, when the Richelieu Wing was inaugurated.

A representative of the Louvre confirmed that this policy exists and also told Artforum that the Theresa and Mortimer Sackler Foundation supported the renovation of the rooms dedicated to Persian and Levantine art in 1997, but did not verify whether the institution had received a gift from the family in 1993. The museum’s website also says that following a “generous donation” the second phase of the wing was inaugurated in 1997 and the north wing of the Cour Carrée was renamed the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities. (The Sackler name has since been omitted from this page.)

Members of P.A.I.N. who visited the museum on Wednesday said that panels and signage located at the entrance to the Sackler galleries that featured the name only a few weeks ago were removed or covered with tape. Sophie Aguirre, who works as a guard at the Louvre, told the New York Times that one of the missing plaques was taken down on either July 8 or July 9.

In a statement provided to Artforum, P.A.I.N. said: “We protest against this attempt to rewrite history and call on Jean-Luc Martinez to rectify his statements as soon as possible in order to make official the removal of the Sackler name from the Louvre. However, we, P.A.I.N., take the liberty of anticipating this official announcement which may never be coming, and announce that the Sackler name, in the twelve rooms of the Louvre’s Wing of Oriental Antiquities, have been removed.”

“Museums and cultural institutions must maintain their integrity. They should not bear the name that is synonymous with the opioid crisis. Our museums belong to the artists and to the public, not to the donors. Those of the institutions who have refused future donations from the Sackler family, we commend you for taking the first steps. Now it is time to take the next step and take down the name of this criminal family.”

P.A.I.N. teamed up with local artists and community groups on July 1 to hold an anti-Sackler protest in front of the museum. Participants in the action called for the Louvre to remove the Sackler name and to stop taking donations from members of the family. Demonstrators, who included members of NGOs and the medical community, were also concerned about the risk of an opioid epidemic in France.

Among the cultural institutions to declare that they will no longer accept funding from the Sacklers are the Tate and the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. 

Activists in front of the Louvre in Paris on Monday, July 1. Courtesy of P.A.I.N.