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Serpentine Galleries, 2013. Photo: Luke Hayes. Courtesy of the Serpentine Galleries.
Serpentine Galleries, 2013. Photo: Luke Hayes. Courtesy of the Serpentine Galleries.

Sackler Trust Temporarily Halts Philanthropic Giving

The Sackler Trust, a charitable organization that has given millions of dollars to the arts, the sciences, and education in the UK, announced this morning that it would temporarily suspend all philanthropic giving. The trust, which is run by the Sackler family, has come under fire for its links to Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical giant that has been accused of sparking the United States’ opioid crisis through its aggressive marketing of its drug OxyContin.

The news follows a wave of announcements from arts institutions that declared they would no longer accept funding from the Sacklers. The National Portrait Gallery in London revealed that it would not move forward with a $1.3 million grant—a joint agreement with the Sackler Trust—last week. Britain’s Tate and New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum followed suit.

In a statement, Tate said: “The Sackler family has given generously to Tate in the past, as they have to a large number of UK 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.”

One day later, the Guggenheim released a statement that said: “No contributions from the Sackler family have been received since 2015. No additional gifts are planned, and the Guggenheim does not plan to accept any gifts.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Purdue Pharma is currently facing more than 1,600 lawsuits. Members of the Sackler family have also been targeted by activists who have held protests, marches, and die-ins at arts institutions and universities across the country for more than a year.

Photographer Nan Goldin and her P.A.I.N. group have played a major role in the campaign to raise awareness about the Sacklers’  ties to the opioid epidemic. They have urged the family to fund treatment centers and educational initiatives about the risks of the drug and demanded that arts institutions refuse Sackler money.

Theresa Sackler—the chair of the Sackler Trust who has been named as a defendant in lawsuits associated with Purdue Pharma, which was led by her late husband, Mortimer Sackler, and his brother Raymond—said in a statement:

“I am deeply saddened by the addiction crisis in America and support the actions Purdue Pharma is taking to help tackle the situation, whilst still rejecting the false allegations made against the company and several members of the Sackler family.

“The current press attention that these legal cases in the United States is generating has created immense pressure on the scientific, medical, educational and arts institutions here in the UK, large and small, that I am so proud to support. This attention is distracting them from the important work that they do.

“The Trustees of the Sackler Trust have taken the difficult decision to temporarily pause all new philanthropic giving, while still honouring existing commitments.

“I remain fully committed to all the causes the Sackler Trust supports, but at this moment it is the better course for the Trust to halt all new giving until we can be confident that it will not be a distraction for institutions that are applying for grants.”