The Slatest

Guggenheim Becomes Latest Museum to Refuse Gifts From Sackler Family

People sit outside The Guggenheim Museum in New York City on August 30, 2017.
People sit outside The Guggenheim Museum in New York City on August 30, 2017.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York will no longer be accepting gifts from the Sackler family. The family, which owns Purdue Pharma that manufactures the painkiller OxyContin, has come under heavy criticism for its links to the opioid crisis and the move by the Guggenheim shows how some institutions are having second thoughts about accepting their largesse. The Guggenheim made the announcement shortly after the Tate, which runs some of the most important art museums in Britain, said it would not seek nor accept any donations from the Sackler family. Britain’s National Portrait Gallery had also announced earlier in the week that it would not accept a long-discussed $1.3 million donation from one of the family’s foundations.

In announcing the move, the Guggenheim didn’t mention the reason for the change in tune on the Sacklers and made clear that it has received plenty of cash from the family over the years. “The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum received a total of $7 million in gifts from members of the Mortimer D. Sackler family initiated in 1995 and paid out through 2006 to establish and support the Sackler Center for Arts Education, which serves approximately 300,000 youth, adults, and families each year,” the museum said in a statement. “An additional $2 million was received between 1999 and 2015 to support the museum. No contributions from the Sackler family have been received since 2015. No additional gifts are planned, and the Guggenheim does not plan to accept any gifts.”

The growing controversy over accepting cash from the Sacklers “has echoes of fights over cultural sponsorship by tobacco companies and the oil industry and comes at a time when many in the arts are strapped for cash,” notes the Guardian. Perhaps that is why many of the institutions that have benefited from Sackler cash in the past have yet to make any announcements of their own. “It’s not easy to give back money or get rid of a name, but not taking any new money, that would seem to be an easier call for institutions and pretty obviously a smart decision at this point,” said David Callahan, founder of the website Inside Philanthropy. For now it seems some institutions “are probably just hoping the furore will blow over,” he added.

The top 10 beneficiaries of Sackler money since 2001, according to Mother Jones, are:

Victoria and Albert Museum: $12.7 million

New York Academy of Sciences: $11.3 million

Dia Art Foundation: $10.2 million

Guggenheim: $6.4 million

American Museum of Natural History: $5.6 million

Science Museum of London: $2.6 million

Metropolitan Opera Association: $2.1 million

Brooklyn Museum: $1 million

American Fund for the Tate Gallery: $940,000

Royal College of Art: $803,150

Note: Includes donations from the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, the Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation, and the Richard and Beth Sackler Foundation