Met Museum of Art will no longer accept Sackler family money

By Megan Cerullo

/ MoneyWatch

Who are the Sacklers?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has joined a handful of major cultural institutions that have vowed to stop accepting gifts from members of the Sackler family who are alleged to have fueled the opioid crisis by falsely marketing OxyContin as a non-addictive drug.

The Met on Wednesday announced "it will suspend accepting gifts from members of the Sackler family presently associated with Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin" after a review of its gift-acceptance policies. The museum said It has no plans to rename the Sackler Wing, which houses the world-renowned Temple of Dendur, a gift from Egypt to the United States.

The museum said the policy overhaul was directly related to the "recent scrutiny of gifts received from individuals related to the production of opioids and the ensuing public health crisis surrounding the abuse of these medications."

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The controversial claims overshadow the family's reputation as a philanthropic powerhouse that's now being shunned by the institutions it once supported — a reality that was not lost on Met museum President and CEO Daniel Weiss.

Accused of fueling opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma and Sacklers agree to $270 million settlement

He acknowledged the Sacklers' and other private philanthropists' critical role in building the Met — the largest museum in the world. The museum, which has an operating budget of $320 million, hosts more than 7.4 million visitor per year and has long depended on substantial donations by wealthy patrons to build its collection of some 1.5 million works of art.

"Private philanthropy literally built the Metropolitan Museum of Art," he said. "What distinguishes our museum from its global peers, such as the Prado, the Hermitage and the Louvre, is the fact that we did not begin with a royal or imperial collection. Every object and much of the building itself came from individuals driven by a love for art and the spirit of philanthropy," he said.

Weiss acknowledged the Sackler family's support of the museum over the course of its history, and noted that no Sacklers have proposed new contributions to the museum.

He said the "prudent course of action" would be to "suspend acceptance of gifts from individuals associated with this public health crisis."

Sackler family members connected to Purdue Pharma, including former CEO Richard Sackler, have denied the opioid allegations against them. Nevertheless they said that "we understand that accepting gifts at this time would put the Met in a difficult position" in a statement to The New York Times.

"We respect the Met and that is the last thing we would want to do," the statement read. "Our goal has always been to support the valuable work of such outstanding organizations, and we remain committed to doing so."

The Tate Modern in London and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York have also said they will stop accepting Sackler family gifts.

First published on May 15, 2019 / 2:16 PM

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