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London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. Photo: Alinangel/Wikipedia Commons.
London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. Photo: Alinangel/Wikipedia Commons.

Victoria & Albert Museum Finally Removes Sackler Name

London’s Victoria & Albert Museum last week became the latest major arts institution to strip the Sackler name from its walls, yielding to years of activist pressure. The Guardian reports that the museum had expunged the tainted name from its education center and from a courtyard, and that it will work to remove it from other less prominent spaces within its walls. The V&A early this summer reached a mutual agreement with the descendants of Mortimer D. Sackler to remove the name and sever financial ties with their longtime benefactors owing to that branch of the Sackler family’s connections to now-bankrupt drugmaker Purdue Pharma, which aggressively peddled the powerful and addictive opioid OxyContin, helping to fuel the opioid crisis in the United States.

The removal follows a yearslong campaign by advocacy group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), founded by artist Nan Goldin, which lobbied museums to end their associations with the Sacklers, charging that family members “artwashed” profits gained from the scandal-tarred drugmaker via large donations made to museums in exchange for naming rights. Institutions including the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Serpentine Galleries in London as well as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Louvre in Paris had already done so. “It’s amazing,” Goldin told The Guardian, noting that she was “shocked” that the V&A, which had for so long resisted ending its association with the Sacklers, was doing so. “It’s a big victory for people who go to museums and do not want to see the name of the family who helped ignite the overdose crisis,” she said. Goldin, who established P.A.I.N. after becoming addicted to opioids prescribed her following an injury, in 2019 led a highly visible protest at the V&A, in which demonstrators staged a die-in in the museum’s Sackler Courtyard, as it was then known.

“Dame Theresa Sackler was a trustee of the V&A between 2011 and 2019, and we are immensely grateful for her service to the V&A over the years,” said the museum in a statement. “We have no plans to rename the spaces.”