The British Museum has become the latest cultural organization to remove the Sackler surname from the galleries and rooms they have supported.
George Osborne, the president of the museum, announced the move on Twittersaying, “We’re entering a new era, showcasing our great collection in new ways for new audiences.”
For decades, the Sackler name has been associated with generous philanthropic donations to galleries and museums in the UK, Europe and the USA. However, in recent years he has become toxic, with the family accused of profiting from the opioid crisis in the United States.
The Sackler family’s Mortimer and Raymond branches owned Purdue Pharma, the maker of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, which played a pivotal role in what has been described as “the worst drug crisis in American history.”
Osborne said the museum has reached an agreement with the Raymond & Beverly Sackler Foundation to remove the Sackler name from all galleries, rooms and endowments they have supported.
This includes the Raymond & Beverly Sackler Galleries of the Ancient Levant, which opened in 1998 and contains treasures from a region that spans Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and western Syria today.
It also had “Sackler Rooms” available for commercial hire.
The campaign to disavow Sackler’s money was led by American fine art photographer and activist Nan Goldin, founder of the campaign group Pain (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now).
He had a number of notable successes. The Tate announced in 2019 that it would no longer accept donations from the Sackler family. Last month it was reported that a plaque reading ‘The Sackler Escalator’ had been removed and a sign reading ‘Sackler Elevators’ had been removed.
The Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London‘s Kensington Gardens, which opened in 2013, was renamed the Serpentine North Gallery last year.
The Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Louvre in Paris are among the many galleries that have moved away from the Sackler name.
In a statement, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation said it has long admired the work of the British Museum.
It said: “As the museum develops a new master plan to transform itself for the future, we believe this decision comes at a unique time in the evolution of the museum.”
Osborne said: “The British Museum is grateful for the foundation’s past support, and the trustees appreciate their cooperation in reaching this agreement as we now usher the museum into a new era and present our incredible collections in different ways for many new audiences.”
The museum said it received Sackler money from the late 1990s to 2013. There were no plans, he added, to drop other names or review relationships with other donors. .