The Metropolitan Museum of Art and members of the Sackler family announced in a joint statement on Thursday that the museum will remove the family’s name from seven dedicated exhibition spaces.
The announcement marks a significant turn for members of the Sackler family, who are famous equally for their acts of philanthropy and their contributions to the opioid crisis. Though the Met had previously announced that it would no longer accept financial gifts from the family, the museum has been entwined with the Sacklers for half a century. The name appeared somewhat durable despite sustained public pressure. Activists, including members of the PAIN Collective, have protested the Met-Sackler bond for years, saying that it legitimized Sackler relatives who are deeply implicated in the misleading marketing and sale of Oxycontin. Other museums, including the Louvre, had already removed the family’s name.
The Sacklers, meanwhile, steadfastly reject claims that they are responsible for any wrongdoing in the sale of Oxycontin. Other Sacklers have distanced themselves from the branch of the family that controlled Purdue Pharma and guided the company’s catastrophic marketing practices, which held Oxycontin out to be less potent, and less habit-forming, than it truly was. That context is missing from Thursday’s statement, which claims simply that the Sacklers are “passing the torch” to a new generation of philanthropists. The Met goes on to thank the Sacklers for their support.