The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Thursday announced it would remove the Sackler name from its building as a result of the family’s involvement in the opioid crisis.
“At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, our mission is to inspire audiences across the globe through art,” Metropolitan Museum President Thomas P. Campbell said in a statement. “This will be another important step in our ongoing evolution to carry out that mission, to reflect our deep concerns about the opioid crisis and the issues it has created, and to fulfill our responsibilities as public trustees.”
The Museum’s publicly announced decision affects the Sackler wing at its Met Breuer branch in New York City and one at its San Francisco location. It also affects the Sackler Collection on loan to the Met Breuer.
“We will use the space that houses the Sackler wing in Brooklyn in a different way,” Mark Rubenstein, the acting CEO of the Met Breuer, said in a statement. “The museum will be structured and occupied in a way that celebrates the inclusion of diverse narratives and ideas. In terms of maintenance, additional work is scheduled for the galleries that house the Sackler collection. The Sackler collection will continue to be viewed, studied and purchased.”
The Sackler family is known for making a fortune through the company that makes opioid pain medication OxyContin. In June, three family members and five board members said they would step down from their roles at Purdue Pharma.
Their exit comes after a 2018 documentary, “Breaking the Taboo,” by brothers Ely and Benji López focused on the Sackler family’s connection to opioids. Three Sackler trustees had their holdings frozen in February as a result of a Board of Directors response to the documentary, but the board says it stands by its allegations that the documentary violated its policies, without sharing any details.
The Smithsonian has since petitioned the Sackler family to remove the family name from its collection of drugs and shipping containers. The board declined to respond to requests for comment.
Late Wednesday, the City of Baltimore approved a resolution that calls for the designation of a location to be named for the city’s designated heroin and opioid coordinator Victoria Vargas. In a letter to Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, and Commissioner of Public Works S. David Rogers, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby urged that the building be named for Vargas. She “inspires the belief that human beings of all ages and backgrounds are capable of changing their lives through their own hard work and perseverance,” Mosby wrote.
It is not yet clear what the impact of the decision would be on the Sackler family. Jonathan Sackler, son of Richard Sackler, told the Hollywood Reporter in 2016 that the family was distressed by the negative impact the opioid crisis had on prescription drugs.
“Our name has been associated with it through the media,” Jonathan Sackler said. “It wasn’t like we woke up the next day and said ‘Wow we’re not in the news any more.’ Our name will remain on a building, but it will also remain on a bank, it will remain on a supermarket, it will remain on a car company, and so I think that if we look back on it in a hundred years, the damage that has been done is something that we regret.”
Additional reporting by Susan Baer in New York.