The University of Oxford announced Monday that it would drop the Sackler family name from several buildings, including two galleries at the university’s Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology.
The removal of the name comes after years of protest at major institutions affiliated with the Sacklers, who have been blamed for initiating the opioid crisis in the United States, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
In a statement, Oxford University said it had “undertaken a review of its relationship with the Sackler family and their trusts, including the way their benefactions to the University are recognised. Following this review, the University has decided that the University buildings, spaces and staff positions using the Sackler name will no longer do so.”
Among the institutions and positions from whose name the Sackler family are to be removed: the Sackler Rome Gallery, the Sackler Gallery of Life after Death in Ancient Egypt, the Sackler Keeper of Antiquities, the Sackler Library, and the Sackler-Clarendon Associate Professorship of Sedimentary Geology.
The University noted that the Sackler name will remain on the Clarendon Arch and the museum’s donor board, to preserve historical record. Since 1993, Oxford received around $12 million to $19 million in donations from the Sacklers and affiliated organizations, the university said.
Oxford is the latest institution to pull the Sackler name from its spaces in recent years. Among the first major institutions to do so was the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in 2021; others, such as the Guggenheim Museum, the British Museum, the Serpentine Galleries, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, have since followed suit.
As ARTnews reported last year on the occasion of the V&A’s decision:
Much of the push for these removals has been led by artist Nan Goldin and her activist group P.A.I.N., which has staged high-profile protests intended to draw connections between Sackler donations and the family’s role in the opioid crisis. These efforts are featured in a new documentary about Goldin by Laura Poitras that took the top prize at the Venice Film Festival this year.
Through their company, Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family sold OxyContin, a highly addictive painkiller. Purdue, and the Sackler family, have been accused of knowingly downplaying OxyContin’s addictive properties and thus contributing directly to the ongoing opioid crisis. In 2022 Purdue Pharma reached a $6 billion settlement with eight US states that brought an end to numerous lawsuits. Through the settlement, the company will be dissolved by 2024.
Members of the Sackler family had been key funders of some of the world’s biggest institutions across the globe, donating millions of dollars to fund luxe galleries and centers.