British Museum to remove Sackler names from its walls

LONDON – The British Museum here is set to erase the Sackler family name from its walls, becoming the latest major cultural institution to sever ties with the family over their role in the opioid crisis.

The decision, was announced in a press release on Fridaycomes nearly four months after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York reached a similar joint agreement with the Sackler family to remove their name from several exhibition spaces, including the wing housing the Temple of Dendur.

The British Museum said in the press release that the decision was made “by mutual consent” with the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation, one of the family’s UK charities.

The foundation has supported the museum for over 30 years, the press release said, making donations between the 1990s and 2013. The Sackler name would remain on a list of the Museum’s Great Court donors because the Museum has “always recognized the important relationships we have with each of our benefactors.”

While the British Museum is the largest cultural institution in Britain committed to eliminating the Sackler name, it is not the first the Serpentine Gallery in London and the Tate museums have already acted to remove the signage. But the move could prompt other big institutions to follow. On Friday, a spokeswoman for the National Gallery in London, whose Sackler Room contains some of the museum’s most prized paintings, said in a statement that its sponsorships and philanthropic support are “under constant review”.

A spokeswoman for the Victoria and Albert Museum, whose glittering entrance is named Sackler Courtyard, said the museum has no plans to remove the name.

Members of the Sackler family founded Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, the hugely profitable pain reliever regularly accused of contributing to the opioid crisis in the United States. In Britain, museums are more often protested for their ties to oil companies than their ties to the Sacklers. Chris Garrard of Culture Unstained, an organization campaigning to end fossil fuel sponsorship, said in a telephone interview that Friday’s announcement “set a precedent as the British Museum has never before taken an ethical stance on from whom it will accept money”. He hoped the museum would now cut ties with oil giant BP, which sponsors exhibitions.

It is unclear when the Sackler name will actually be removed from the walls of the British Museum. The museum is protected by UK heritage laws, the press release said, and all work must be “carried out with sensitivity”. “Consequently, we expect that the signage changes will be carefully implemented over a period of time to protect the substance of the property,” it said.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/25/arts/design/british-museum-sackler-family.html British Museum to remove Sackler names from its walls

Isaiah Colbert

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