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Nan Goldin
courtesy of Instagram/@nangoldinstudio

Nan Goldin supports challenging the Sackler family in the US Supreme Court

The photographer has long questioned the family’s opioid crisis links with her activist group, P.A.I.N

Nan Goldin’s opposition to the Sackler family – owners of Purdue Pharma, the Oxycontin manufacturer considered partly responsible for the opioid crisis – is well-documented. Along with her activist group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction prevention Now) she has protested at several galleries and museums, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum, criticising them for taking Sackler funding, and petitioned public officials to demand intervention.

Most recently, though, Goldin has backed an attempt by the state of Arizona to file a lawsuit in the US Supreme Court. The lawsuit claims that members of the Sackler family “siphoned” billions of dollars – more than $4 billion between 2008 and 2016 – from Purdue Pharma to avoid paying out on opioid victims’ claims.

“We want the Supreme Court to make sure that we hold accountable those individuals who are responsible for this epidemic,” says Arizona’s attorney general, Mark Brnovich, in a New York Times article about the case (July 31). “We allege that the Sacklers have siphoned billions of dollars from Purdue in recent years. They did this while knowing the company was facing massive financial liabilities.”

Goldin has voiced her support for the lawsuit, telling Artnet News: “We’re very gratified to hear this… I am anxious for it to go to the Supreme Court, and hope it won’t be thrown out.” She also stresses that her group has been trying to put the Sackler’s money in the hands of those they have wronged for some time, adding that they “need to be held responsible, and the money needs to be divided as compensation to the people who suffered.”

Taking the lawsuit to the Supreme Court is still, however, what Brnovich calls “a little unorthodox” and no one seems sure that it will agree to take the case on.

Back in March, the Sackler Trust (the philanthropic arm run by the Sackler family) froze donations to UK art institutions after being turned down by the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate group, which have long benefited from the family’s money. Last month the Louvre removed the Sackler name from its galleries, following P.A.I.N. protests.