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Nan Goldin the Met
via Instagram @nangoldinstudio

Nan Goldin and art activists celebrate the Met dropping the Sackler name

The American photographer and activist group PAIN have protested the OxyContin manufacturers’ involvement with the museum since 2018

Yesterday (December 9) New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it will remove the name of its controversial donor, the Sackler family, from its exhibition halls. The news follows accusations that the billionaire family’s opioid-manufacturing company, Purdue Pharma, has fuelled the US’s deadly opioid crisis through its sales of narcotic painkillers like OxyContin. 

The family has faced lawsuits from several US cities for its “deadly, deceptive… illegal scheme” to market its drugs across the country. In 2018, American photographer and former opioid addict Nan Goldin joined direct action organisation PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) to protest the family’s involvement with cultural institutions across the globe.

Together, the activists led a ‘die-in’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum – which also boasts the Sackler name – and multiple protests outside the Met. In 2019, Goldin and 12 PAIN members were arrested during an anti-opioid death protest outside Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office.

Now, after years of campaigning, the family’s name will be removed from seven exhibition spaces throughout the Met, including the wing which contains the ancient Egyptian Temple of Dendur – one of the museum's most iconic and beloved works of art.

In the announcement, the museum explained that the Sackler families “have mutually agreed to take this action” so that the museum can further its “core mission”. 

“Our families have always strongly supported the Met, and we believe this to be in the best interest of the museum and the important mission that it serves,” the descendants of Mortimer Sackler and Raymond Sackler said in a statement. “The earliest of these gifts were made almost 50 years ago, and now we are passing the torch to others who might wish to step forward to support the museum.”

Posting a celebratory photo in front of the Temple of Dendur on Instagram, Goldin wrote: “A day trip to the Met for a PAIN reunion celebrating our victory and hopefully the beginning of a new era. Thank you to the Met for doing the right thing. 

“To think a small, direct action group with about a dozen members and a big mouth could bring about a sea change!” she added, referencing art activist and anti-opioid groups Vocal New York, The Yes Men, CPD Action, Truth Pharm, North Carolina Survivors Union, and Act Up NY, who also helped lobby for the family’s removal.

See Nan Goldin’s full statement below.