Sacklers Temporarily Banned From Slapping Name on Art Institutions

Photographer Nan Goldin is among the critics of the latest deal between members of the Sackler family, owners of opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, and 15 states formerly opposing the company’s bankruptcy reorganization plan. In November of 2020, the company pled guilty for its role in the opioid crisis. The latest update will prohibit Sacklers engaged in Purdue’s business dealings from lending their name to institutions over the next nine years until the family has paid off their debts.

The Sackler name is emblazoned on dozens of museums, hospitals, and other institutions across the United States and Europe. In 2017, Goldin founded PAIN Sackler, an advocacy organization shedding light on the Sacklers’ philanthropy in art and culture institutions. Last December, a series of leaked messages between members of the Sackler family revealed the family’s attempt to clear their names using cultural philanthropy.

In recent years, in part due to PAIN’s advocacy and increasing public awareness about Purdue’s role in the opioid epidemic, several institutions have removed the Sackler name from their walls, including New York University and Dia Art Foundation. Others, like Tate, have publicly refused to accept future donations. This March, 23 states and the District of Columbia proposed an amendment to the bankruptcy restructuring plan that would protect institutions that choose to remove the Sackler name from their walls.

In the latest development in Purdue’s bankruptcy reorganization plan, announced last week, 15 states, including New York and Massachusetts, agreed to abandon their resistance to the restructuring if the company releases millions of documents from decades of business operations. The implicated family members will also be required to pay an additional $50 million from their personal wealth, an estimated $11 billion.

In total, the Sacklers will be required to pay $4.5 billion over nine years. Under the latest deal, the Sacklers will be prohibited from naming institutions, including museums and hospitals, until their payments have been completed. In addition, they can have no further business dealings in opioid manufacturing. The family’s charitable trusts, worth an estimated $175 million, will be controlled by the National Opioid Abatement Trust.

In a tweet, Goldin lambasted the temporary ban, calling it “appalling.”

In a conversation with Hyperallergic, Goldin lambasted the “questionable deal,” saying, “I find the whole thing appalling.”

While conceding that the 15 states that have agreed to the deal did so in an effort to obtain the redacted documents, she asserted: “I’m furious about the naming rights.”

“I fear that if money is involved, people won’t remember in nine years,” she said.

“I don’t want to believe that we didn’t succeed in tarnishing their legacy forever,” she said. “Hopefully there will be no institution or museum that will want their name again.”

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