These Museums Still Have The Sackler Name Up Despite Opioid Crisis Controversy

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Britain’s Tate Modern is the latest museum to remove the Sackler name from buildings since the billionaire family and their company, Purdue Pharma, have come under fire over their role in the American opioid epidemic—here’s which museums still have the controversial family’s name up on wings and galleries.

Contemporary dancers perform in the Sackler Courtyard, the new addition to the Victoria and Albert … [+] museum unveiled to the public in London on June 28, 2017.

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The Guggenheim in New York City opened the Sackler Center for Arts Education in 2001, and although the museum pledged in 2019 to no longer accept donations from the family, it has not announced any plans to rename the education center.

The British Museum has The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Rooms and a gallery of Mesopotamian artifacts named after the couple.

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum—where Theresa Sackler was a longtime trustee—named the $3 million pavilion opened in 2017 after the Sacklers and an education center named for the family. (While the family has suspended donations to the museum, director Tristram Hunt told The Guardian in 2019 that the V&A had no plans to begin “taking names down or denying the past.”)

The National Gallery in London has the Sackler Room, where some of the museum’s most popular paintings by British artists are held, including JMW Turner’s “The Fighting Tremiere,” which is featured on Britain’s £20 notes and was voted the country’s greatest painting in a landmark BBC poll. (In 2019, the museum said it would not accept a $1.3 million donation from the family’s trust.)

Big numbers

$10.8 billion. That’s how much the Sackler family is worth, according to a 2020 Forbes estimate, making them the 30th-richest family in the US


An increasing number of museums are taking down the Sackler name. Over the weekend, British media reported that Tate—which first announced it would no longer accept donations from the Sacklers in 2019—quietly stripped the family name from a plaque near a prominent elevator at Tate Modern. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced last month it would scrub the family’s name from seven exhibition spaces, including the iconic wing that houses the Egyptian Temple of Dendur. The Louvre in Paris was the first major culture institution to announce it would remove the family name from its 12-room wing of Near Eastern antiquities in 2019, which bore the Sackler name for more than a decade. However, the museum said the decision was over a policy that limited naming rights, not the Sackler’s opioid ties. Some cultural institutions are limited in their power to remove names over perpetuity clauses in donation agreements.

Surprising fact

Not all of the money donated to museums by the Sackler family has ties to opioids. The three Sackler brothers—Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond—purchased an existing company called Purdue in 1952. After Arthur died in 1987, his descendants sold his stake in the company to his brothers. Purdue Pharma was incorporated in 1991 and released OxyContin five years later. Arthur and his descendants, none of whom have benefited from OxyContin, are the namesakes for the Brooklyn Museum’s Sackler Center for Feminist Art and the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC Two galleries at the Met that were funded by Arthur’s donations have kept his name up, while those at least partially funded by his brothers were removed.


Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family have been accused of fueling the opioid epidemic by using deceptive marketing to sell more drugs and targeting low-income areas of the country. Nearly 500,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Late last year, District Judge Colleen McMahon overturned a nearly $4.5 billion settlement that would have protected members of the Sackler family with ties to Purdue Pharma from any future legal action over the opioid epidemic, forcing the company to rework its bankruptcy restructuring.

Further Reading

Metropolitan Museum Of Art Will Remove Sackler Name From Galleries (Forbes)

Here Are The Major Museums That Refuse The Sackler’s Money—Though Some Keep The Name Up (Forbes)

Federal Court Overturns Purdue Pharma Settlement That Shielded Sacklers From Opioid Suits (Forbes)

Despite Years Of Litigation, The Sackler Family Behind OxyContin Is Still Worth Billions (Forbes)

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