National Portrait Gallery drops £1 million Sackler donation

National Portrait Gallery, London. Licensed under Creative Commons: Wei-Te Wong

London’s National Portrait Gallery is the first major art institution to drop a grant offered by the Sackler family, the Guardian reports. A gallery spokesperson has reportedly said the decision to drop the £1 million donation was ‘jointly agreed’ by the institution and the Sackler family, who are currently facing a number of lawsuits over their role in the opioids crisis in the US. The family, who have been philanthropists of health, education, science and the arts for nearly 50 years, have said they decided not to go ahead with the funding in order to ‘avoid creating a “distraction” for the gallery’. The Sackler family have in the past made significant donations to UK arts institutions including the Royal Opera House, National Gallery, National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, Royal Ballet school, Tate, Old Vic, Royal College of Art and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Photographer Nan Goldin, who became addicted to her prescription of OxyContin and who has staged protests at institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim for their involvement with the Sackler family, called the National Portrait Gallery to express her happiness at their decision. She had previously threatened to refuse a retrospective of her work at the London gallery. In a statement she said, ‘We have to hold museums to a higher standard, they are supposed to be a repository of the best of humanity, a repository of learning and culture.’

20 March 2019