Pressure grows on New York museums over ethics

The pressure on US-based institutions over the ethics of sponsorship, patronage and board membership continues to grow. On 18 January, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced that it is reviewing its policy over donations after it emerged that eight members of the Sackler family, major donors to the museum (and other institutions including DIA Art Foundation, the Tate, the Guggenheim and the Serpentine Gallery), have been added to a $500m lawsuit to offset costs related to the opioid crisis. 

Members of the Sackler family own Purdue Pharma, producers of the over-the-counter painkiller OxyContin which has been held responsible for contributing to the deaths of thousands of Americans each year. The president of the Metropolitan Museum, Daniel H. Weiss, issued a statement that the Sackler family is an 'extended group' whose association with the museum 'began decades before the opioid crisis'. He added that the museum was conducting a 'further review' of its policies with regards to donations, and 'will have more to report in due course'.

The Whitney Museum was meanwhile bracing itself for further protests, co-ordinated by the activist group Decolonize This Place, over the presence on its board of Warren B. Kanders. The CEO of a company that manufactures tear gas fired at the end of last year at migrants on the US-Mexico border, Kanders has become a lightning rod for protests against the funding and infrastructure of US institutions. Calling on workers to join a 'citywide Town Hall Assembly' in collaboration with Chinatown Art Brigade, W.A.G.E., and other groups on 26 January, Decolonize This Place promised to seek Kanders' removal from the board of the museum 'using a diversity of tactics'. 

22 January 2019