As museums across the country are figuring out what to do with huge donations and wings built in the name of the Sackler family, longtime supporters of the arts and owners of the OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, one of the world’s biggest museums has removed the family’s name from its walls: the Louvre.
The New York Times reports that the Louvre’s collection of Persian and Levantine artifacts wing, known as the “Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities” since the ’90s, now includes gray tape over references to the Sackler family and their donations to the wing.
The Louvre’s decision follows those of museums like the Tate, the Guggenheim, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which have all said they would not take donations from the family anymore. The Sackler family has built a billionaire fortune off of OxyContin, a highly addictive pain medication, and an aggressive push to get doctors to prescribe it, as documented in a 2017 New Yorker article on the family and their art philanthropy. The connection between the Sackler family, the country’s current opioid and painkiller epidemic, and the donations that run America’s greatest art museums have grown bolder and more public in recent years. The artist Nan Goldin started a protest campaign against the family, urging museums to stop taking Sackler donations. “The bodies are piling up,” she wrote in a 2018 essay for Artforum.
The president for the Louvre says that the Sackler’s name was removed because naming rights last 20 years, apparently with the Sackler naming dating back to 1993. But the timing of the removal, and the highly politicized statement of removing a Sackler family name after so many museums have done so, makes it seem as if this decision was related to ongoing protests in the art world against the family. A spokesperson for the museum did not respond to the New York Times when asked why the signage was not removed earlier if it really did expire after 20 years.