Tate Britain / Image Shutterstock
Tate, the British art gallery group, has said that it will be removing all references to the Sackler family name across its London sites. The Sackler family has been drawn into various legal battles in recent years, some of which are ongoing. Certainly, the family’s role as a pharmaceutical giant is seen by many as one that is central to the opioid epidemic in the United States. The group said that Tate Britain, one of its most prestigious gallery’s in central London, would have its Sackler Octagon wing renamed as a part of the move. Indeed, another gallery room at Tate Britain will also have its former connection to the Sackler family’s philanthropy expunged.
Signage and Sponsorship
At the Tate Modern, on London’s fashionable South Bank, the Sackler family name will also be removed from signage around the gallery’s escalators. According to a spokesperson for Tate, a further gallery room at Tate Modern will also be renamed so that its former association with the American family will be taken away. The spokesperson said that following conversations with representatives of the Sackler family, it was mutually agreed to remove all such references with the gallery’s signage.
The pharmaceutical companies Purdue Pharma and Mundipharma were founded by members of the Sackler family. Both firms have been sued by victims and families affected by the use of opioids in recent years, primarily because of a painkiller named OxyContin. According to the claimants, the boards of these firms played down the ‘addictive nature’ of the drug. Indeed, in 2020, Purdue Pharma reached a multi-billion dollar settlement and pleaded guilty to a number of criminal charges associated with the scandal. In the run-up to this settlement, the Sackler family made many philanthropic gifts to various art institutions around the world. Some saw this as a cynical attempt to protect their name’s standing, however.
The Sackler family had thought it had won immunity from further civil lawsuits in the United States following another large payout and the agreement for members of the family still on the boards of both companies to relinquish their control. Only a few months ago, a federal judge overthrew that ruling leaving the Sacklers open to future potential lawsuits once more. For some in the art world, this meant that the Sackler’s position as sponsors of leading art institutions had become untenable. Nevertheless, another big London-based institution – the V&A museum in Kensington – said that it did not have plans to remove the Sackler name from its walls despite being a recipient of some of the family’s pharmaceutically derived wealth.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.