Nan Goldin has received support from Elizabeth A. Sackler (whose name adorns the Brooklyn Museum’s Center for Feminist Art) in condemning her family’s role in the opioid crisis. Goldin’s project for the January 2018 issue of Artforum focuses on her addiction to OxyContina dangerously addictive pain drug produced by Purdue Pharma, a company owned by the Sackler family. The Sacklers are known for their generous financial contributions to arts institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Dia Art Foundation, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. “The opioid epidemic is a national crisis and Purdue Pharma’s role in it is morally abhorrent to me,” Sackler told Benjamin Sutton of Hyperallergic. “I admire Nan Goldin’s commitment to take action and her courage to tell her story. I stand in solidarity with artists and thinkers whose work and voices must be heard.”
Elizabeth Sackler’s uncles, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, were Purdue Pharma’s principal owners when the company started distributing OxyContin in 1995. In 2007, Purdue Pharma was forced to pay a $600 million federal fine after deceiving the public about the drug’s addictiveness. Oxycontin continues to sell well, regardless: In 2016, the company made more than $31 billion off the drug.
“My father, Arthur M. Sackler, died in 1987, before OxyContin existed and his one-third option in Purdue Frederick was sold by his estate to his brothers a few months later,” Elizabeth Sackler said. “None of his descendants have ever owned a share of Purdue stock nor benefitted in any way from it or the sale of OxyContin. I stand with all angry voices against abuse of power that harms or compromises any and all lives.” A letter to the editors of Artforum from Elizabeth A. Sackler will be published on artforum.com on February 1 and will be included in the February issue of the magazine.
Goldin started the group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) in order to, in her own words, “hold [the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma] accountable.” According to the artist, more than thirty-three thousand opioid deaths occurred in the US in 2015, half of which can be attributed to prescription opioids. Of those who abuse heroin or fentanyl, 80 percent of them started with an opioid prescription.