By Alex Greenberger
Senior Editor, ARTnews
The British Museum in London said on Friday evening that it would remove the Sackler name from its galleries.
The decision follows similar decisions at a number of institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Serpentine Galleries, and Tate Modern.
The news was announced via a joint statement issued by the museum and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation. Raymond and Beverly Sackler supported the museum for over 20 years, providing funding “between the 1990s and 2013,” according to the statement.
Their funding went toward the creation of galleries, educational facilities, and research areas at the museum. Some of those spaces bear their names.
“The British Museum is grateful for the Foundation’s past support, and the Trustees appreciate their co-operation in coming to this agreement as we now move the Museum into a new era and present our incredible collections in different ways for new audiences,” George Osborne, chair of the British Museum, said in a statement.
A concrete timeline for the removal of the family’s name was not provided.
“We expect the changes to signage to be implemented carefully over a period of time to protect the fabric of the estate,” the museum said in its announcement, which also noted that “there has been no request for the return of any funds.”
Through the company Purdue Pharma, members of the Sackler family have been accused of selling the painkiller OxyContin with the knowledge that it had addictive properties. Many have alleged that the family has played a key role in the opioid crisis. In 2021, Purdue Pharma was formally dissolved, and the Sackler family has agreed to pay out billions of dollars to settle legal claims against them; as part of the settlement, Purdue and the Sackler family admitted to no wrongdoing.
The Sacklers had long been important patrons of art-world institutions, a fact which Nan Goldin and her activist group PAIN have sought to call attention to through protests at museums, most notably in 2018 at the Met’s Temple of Dendur, where their name was once enshrined.
While some institutions had pledged to no longer accept Sackler money, that New York museum became the first to explicitly state that it would remove the family name when it announced the change last year. Other major institutions have since followed suit.
The British Museum removal came just weeks after the Sackler family said it would not object to having its name taken down as part of a settlement with nine U.S. state attorney generals and the District of Columbia. That settlement requires that museums seeking to do so must give family members 45 days’ notice.
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