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Tate to Stop Accepting Donations from Sackler Trust

Tate Britain.

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In another victory for activists calling on museums to stop accepting money from the Sackler family, Tate in London has said that, following a meeting with its ethics committee, its museums will no longer allow the Sackler Trust to donate money. The news comes just two days after the National Portrait Gallery in London scuttled a £1 million ($1.32 million) grant from the foundation, fearing protests from activists who allege that the Sackler family is, in part, responsible in the current opioid crisis.

“The Sackler family has given generously to Tate in the past, as they have to a large number of U.K. arts institutions,” Tate said in a statement to the Times of London, which first reported the news. “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.”

Tate has previously accepted an estimated £4 million ($5.24 million) in funding from Sackler-related organizations over the past two decades. In Tate Modern, an escalator bears the family’s name, and at Tate Britain, a reception room that can seat 300 visitors is called the Sackler Octagon.

Over the past few years, some have cited the Sackler family’s dealings as one of the primary factors in the opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical company with ties to descendants of Mortimer Sackler and his brother Raymond, is the producer and distributor of the painkiller OxyContin. (Members of the family have repeatedly denied complicity in the crisis.) The company is now the subject of several lawsuits, and it has reportedly considered filing for bankruptcy.

In the United States, activist groups, most notably artist Nan Goldin’s P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), have been holding actions at museums with Sackler connections across the country. In 2018, P.A.I.N. protested at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Harvard Art Museums in Boston, and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Earlier this year, the group rained down leaflets in the Guggenheim Museum’s rotunda and marched to the steps of the Met, where Goldin and others discussed their experiences with OxyContin.

The National Portrait Gallery and the Sackler Trust’s mutual decision to call off the donations came amid reports that P.A.I.N. was considering a protest at the museum. The funds for the NPG were meant to be put toward a larger campaign that is intended to give the museum a new entrance and a new learning center, among other facets. In a statement on Tuesday, the Sackler Trust said that the allegations “may cause this new donation to deflect the National Portrait Gallery from its important work.”

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