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Louvre removes Sackler family name from museum walls amid opioid controversy

Louvre removes Sackler family name from museum walls amid opioid controversy

The Louvre has removed the name of the Sackler family, owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, from the walls of one of its wings amid a growing scandal over its alleged connection with the US opioid crisis.

CNN reporters on Thursday observed that masking tape had been used to cover the Sackler name on signs what was previously in the Paris museum’s Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities.
The wing, which houses Persian and Levantine artifacts, had borne the family’s name since its inauguration in 1997 after the billionaire philanthropists sponsored its renovation.
CNN reporters saw that tape had been used to cover the Sackler name on signs in the museum. Credit: Celia Heudebourg/Antoine Crouin/CNN
Purdue has been criticized for its aggressive marketing of OxyContin, one of the opioid painkillers at the center of a dependency crisis in the US. Several members of the Sackler family are facing lawsuits alleging that they boosted their wealth by pushing what they knew to be addictive and deadly painkillers onto doctors and patients over the course of a decade.
In an extensive interview with Vanity Fair published in June, David Sackler insisted his family had nothing to do with the crisis.
“We feel absolutely terrible. Facts will show we didn’t cause the crisis, but we want to help,” he told the magazine.
Opioids are a class of pharmaceuticals that include prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, morphine and fentanyl, as well as illicit drugs such as heroin. In 2017, an estimated 1.7 million individuals in the US suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers.
With a family fortune estimated by Forbes at $13 billion, the Sacklers have made donations to museums and galleries around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
But as criticism has grown over the Sacklers’ alleged link with the US opioid crisis, some art galleries have said they will no longer accept donations from the family.
British gallery group Tate said in March 2019 that it will no longer take financial contributions from the Sacklers, having accepted £4 million — about $5 million — in the past. In May, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art followed suit.
A spokesperson from the Louvre told CNN that the Sackler name had been removed from rooms in the wing because the naming period had expired.
“The Theresa and Mortimer Sackler Foundation supported the renovation of rooms devoted to Persian and Levantine artifacts in 1996-1997. Since then, there have been no other gifts from the Sackler family,” the spokesperson said.
They added: “On October 10, 2003, the Board of Trustees of the Museum decided to limit the duration of the naming of the rooms to 20 years. This patronage is more than 20 years old, the naming is legally finished and these rooms no longer bear the name of Sackler.”
The Louvre did not respond to requests for an explanation as to why the Sackler name had not been removed three years ago.
On the museum’s website, references to the “Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities” have been removed.
The Sackler Trust did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Top image: Activists hold a banner reading “Take down the Sackler name” in front of the Pyramid of the Louvre museum, on July 1, 2019.