March 25 (UPI) — The British Museum on Friday announced it would remove the name of the Sackler family from the walls of its galleries but would keep some ties to the family, which has often been accused of playing a significant role in the opioid epidemic.
The decision comes as cultural institutions move to sever ties with the family and their company Purdue Pharma, which pleaded guilty to criminal charges for misleading the public about the addiction risk of the drug OxyContin.
The British Museum said in a statement that it the decision was a mutual agreement between the institution and the trustees of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation. The museum did not give a definitive date for the removal of the signage, saying it would be done “carefully over a period of time.”
“The British Museum is grateful for the Foundation’s past support, and the Trustees appreciate their co-operation in coming to this agreement,” George Osborne, the chair of the museum, said in the statement.
However, the British Museum said that the Sacklers would remain on the benefactor’s board and included in the Great Court donor list. The family has contributed to the museum for more than 30 years, having made donations between the 1990s and 2013.
“The British Museum has always recognized the important relationships we have with each of our benefactors, including the historic gifts provided by the Foundation in the past and we have no plans to change this,” the museum said.
The Louvre Museum became the first major cultural institution to remove the Sackler name from its galleries in 2019 after art photographer Nan Goldin, who has been outspoken about having been addicted to OxyContin, protested outside the Paris museum, The Guardian reported at the time.
The British National Portrait Gallery said that same year it would decline a $1.3 million donation from the family after Goldin said she would turn down a major exhibit highlighting her career if the museum accepted the donation.
The Serpentine Galleries in January removed the Sackler name from its Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London after rebranding it as Serpentine North, The Art Newspaper reported. The museum had faced criticism for not severing ties with the Sacklers sooner.
In the United States, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York said in 2019 it would stop accepting donations from the Sacklers after the museum was targeted by protesters who littered paper designed to look like prescriptions for OxyContin.
Meanwhile, the Sackler family said in a statement in December that it had reached an agreement with the Metropolitan Museum of Art to remove the family name from its galleries.