Sackler P.A.I.N., an anti-Sackler group that artist Nan Goldin and fellow activists launched in 2018, has become a force in the museum circuit, regularly protesting institutions that have received support from a family whose name has become synonymous with what many now call toxic philanthropy. After actions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Louvre, and elsewhere, protestors have now brought their cause to one of London’s top institutions.
On Saturday, P.A.I.N. led a die-in at the Victoria & Albert Museum, which currently has a courtyard and an education center named after the Sackler family and is reported to have received millions of dollars in funding from the patrons over the years. In July, the museum’s director, Tristram Hunt, said the institution was “proud” to have received funding from the Sacklers.
A V&A spokesperson commented: “As a national museum and a space for civic debate, the V&A fully supports the public’s right to a peaceful protest. We are grateful for the generosity of our donors, which contributes towards our world-class public programme, supports the expert care needed for the collection and improves our facilities so they can be enjoyed by future generations.”
The Sackler family is the owner of Purdue Pharma, a company that produces the painkiller OxyContin, which many have alleged was put on the market despite company officials’ knowledge that the drug is addictive. Purdue Pharma has since weathered numerous lawsuits, and it recently filed for bankruptcy.
Museums have been hit hard as activists have forced them to take accountability for accepting money from patrons who many have said played a key role in the current opioid crisis. (The Sackler family and Purdue Pharma have previously denied that they are responsible for it. Purdue Pharma did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
Following protests by P.A.I.N., the Met, the Guggenheim, Tate in London, and others said they would no longer accept funding from the Sackler family, and the Sackler Trust, an organization that gives money to British arts organizations, said it would “temporarily pause” its donations earlier this year.
At the Victoria & Albert Museum earlier today, Goldin and other activists brought with them a giant sign reading “ABANDON THE SACKLER NAME.” They staged a die-in and scattered dollar bills that appeared to have been smeared with blood, and they urged the museum to retitle sites at the institution that are named after the Sacklers.
“What will it take for the V&A to recognize their responsibility to denounce the name of the family liable for one of the deadliest crises of our time?” P.A.I.N. wrote in a statement posted to Instagram. “This money must be clawed back to fund drug treatment, not decadent architecture.”