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Nan Goldin leads anti-opioids protest at the Metropolitan Museum

The artist and activist group PAIN staged a die-in and threw prescription pill bottles into the moat

Around 100 demonstrators, including artist Nan Goldin, staged a protest in the Sackler’s Wing of the Metropolitan Museum in New York at the weekend (March 10). The direct action was challengng the Sackler famly – who own one of the largest opioid manufacturers in the U.S, Purdue Pharma – and their sponsorhip of the Met.

The protest was planned by artist and activist group PAIN – the anti-opioid org’s first example of direct action. Demonstrators threw pill bottles labelled “OxyContin” and “prescribed to you by the Sackler Family” into the Temple of Dendur moat.

“As artists and activists we demand funding for treatment,” Nan Goldin told the gathered crowd, as reported by the Guardian. “150 people will die today, 10 while we are standing here, from drug overdoses.”

“In the name of the dead. Sackler family. Purdue Pharma. Hear our demands. Use your profits. Save our lives,” she shouted, according to Artnews.

A die-in took place, where protesters fell to the floor while chanting “Sacklers lie, people die”. 

The Sackler family paid for the Sackler Wing in 1974 – it’s named after Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler. Besides founding the big Pharma company that makes OxyContin, the family is known for their arts patronage and funding. The Sacklers donate to institutions such as the National History Museum, the Old Vic Theatre, the Royal Opera House, and others. No institution has vocally criticised the family yet. Back in 2007, Purdue as a company pled guilty to charges for misleading doctors, regulators, and patients about the opioid’s risk of addiction. 

Between 2016 and 2017, overdoses increased by 30 per cent in the U.S. 64,000 people died of prescription drug overdoses in 2016 alone.

Nan Goldin founded PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) back in January – she has been open about her previous heroin addiction and dependency on opioids following a prescription to OxyContin. After spending two-and-a-half months in rehab in January 2017, Goldin detailed in a letter that she has been clean for almost a year – nevertheless, she recognises that many do not have the same opportunity to break their addiction. She made an Instagram for the direct action group and launched a petition which has garnered 33,000 signatures so far.

“I survived the opioid crisis. I narrowly escaped,” Goldin previously wrote. “I went from the darkness and ran full speed into The World. I was isolated, but I realised I wasn’t alone. When I got out of treatment I became absorbed in reports of addicts dropping dead from my drug, OxyContin. 

“I learned that the Sackler family, whose name I knew from museums and galleries, were responsible for the epidemic. This family formulated, marketed, and distributed OxyContin. I have decided to make the private public by calling them to task.”

Pamphlets handed out at the demo detailed the current opioid crisis sweeping the U.S. It also provided info on Purdue Pharma and the family, as well as details on help for addiction. 

“Unfortunately this wing is tainted with the blood money of the Sackler family who lied and profited off the sales of the prescription opioid Oxycontin,” the pamphlet reads, according to the Art Newspaper. “It’s time for the family that helped create this problem answer to the people worst affected.”

Read back on Goldin’s letter about her drug addiction in full here and follow P.A.I.N here