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The Temple of Dendur, located within the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Sackler Wing. Photo: Erwin Verbruggen/Wikipedia Commons.
The Temple of Dendur, located within the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Sackler Wing. Photo: Erwin Verbruggen/Wikipedia Commons.

Met to Strip Sackler Name from Galleries

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Sackler family today jointly announced that the Met will excise the Sackler name from the seven exhibition spaces bearing it. Perhaps most notable among these is the soaring 1978 glass-and-steel Sackler Wing, which houses the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, a visitor favorite. The news is not unexpected, given the pressure the Met and other large institutions have been under to sever ties with the Sackler family owing to members’ involvement with the Purdue Pharma opioid scandal.

“Our families have always strongly supported The Met believe this to be in the best interest of the Museum and the important mission that it serves,” descendants of Dr. Mortimer Sackler and Dr. Raymond Sackler said in a statement. “The earliest of these gifts were made almost fifty years ago, and now we are passing the torch to others who might wish to step forward to support the Museum.”

The decision to remove the name was made by museum officials and members of the Sackler family, with the goal of allowing the museum to move forward unfettered by the now-tainted relationship, one that had been tremendously beneficial to both parties prior to the public revelations and subsequent lawsuits regarding Purdue’s aggressive marketing of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin. The Met in 2019 announced that it would refuse any further donations by members of the Sackler family. When Purdue Pharma dissolved earlier this year, Sackler family members connected with the company agreed give up ownership and to pay a $4.5 billion fine in exchange for being released from any future lawsuits pertaining to opioids. Notably, no member of the Sackler family apologized or took personal responsibility for playing a part in the opioid crisis. “This is a bitter result,” noted Judge Richard Drain, who presided over Purdue’s bankruptcy court proceedings.

“It’s been a real lesson in the corruption of this country to watch this court, that billionaires have a different justice systems than the rest of us, and that they can actually walk away unscathed,” artist Nan Goldin told New York magazine at the time. Goldin, who founded the advocacy group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) after becoming addicted to OxyContin following an injury, for years led efforts to prevent Sackler family members from “artwashing” profits gained from Purdue via large donations made to museums in return for naming rights. “A big issue for us is the museums taking down [the Sackler] name,” said Goldin. “We ruined their reputation, which was of utmost importance to them.”

“The Met has been built by the philanthropy of generations of donors—and the Sacklers have been among our most generous supporters,” said Met president and CEO Dan Weiss in a statement. “This gracious gesture by the Sacklers aids the museum in continuing to serve this and future generations. We greatly appreciate it.”