The Metropolitan of New York removes the name of one of its patrons related to the opioid crisis

By : ujikiu / On : 03/11/2022

The family behind the pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma, which has become an emblem of the opioid crisis plaguing the United States, announced Thursday that it had reached an agreement with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to have his name removed from seven spaces within the exhibition grounds, including the wing that houses the famous Egyptian temple of Dendur.

“Our families have always strongly supported the Met, and we believe this is in the best interest of the museum and the important mission it fulfills,” the descendants of Mortimer Sackler and Raymond Sackler said in a statement. "The first of these donations was made nearly 50 years ago, and now we're passing the torch on to others who want to step up to support the museum."

The Sacklers, wealthier than the Rockefellers according to Forbes, built much of their wealth thanks to OxyContin, an opiate that thousands of plaintiffs say was marketed with false advertising, hiding its addictive potential. In September 2019, Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy, and the Sacklers announced they were transferring control of the company to an entity created to “benefit the plaintiffs and the American people.”

The announcement made Thursday marks a significant break between the world's largest museum and one of its most generous benefactors. In 2019, the New York museum cut funding from the Sackler family, but it has been relatively slow to remove its name from galleries. Other museums have rejected Sackler's money, such as London's Serpentine Gallery, and some were quick to remove Sackler's name, including the Louvre in Paris, which was the first to do so. The Guggenheim, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Opera and the Dia Art Foundation are other cultural beneficiaries of the Sacklers in New York.

New York Metropolitan removes name of one of its patrons linked to the opioid crisis

The first American Sacklers were born to an immigrant couple from Eastern Europe. The three children of the marriage grew up in Brooklyn in the 1920s. Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler studied psychiatry and in the 1950s bought a small pharmaceutical company, Purdue Frederick, which they later renamed Purdue Pharma. The eldest, Arthur, was a great salesman and marketing pioneer in medicine, as well as one of the leading collectors of Asian art of his generation. However, Purdue Pharma's greatest success came in 1995, years after Arthur's death. His brothers Mortimer and Raymond released OxyContin. The US Drug Agency (FDA) authorized its use as an analgesic to combat pain in cancer patients. Years later, this drug would be considered the precursor of the overdose epidemic that has claimed almost 500,000 lives in the United States between 1999 and 2020.

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