Nan Goldin

Legendary photographer turning her sights on the ethics of patronage

Goldin has in the past two years pivoted from artist – specifically, peerless photographic documenter of subcultures and loss since the 1970s – to activist. In 2017, after her own addiction to OxyContin following wrist surgery alerted her to the scale of the opioid crisis in the United States, she set up Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (P.A.I.N.). The target was, and is, the Sackler family (members of which own the company, Purdue Pharma, that produces the drug) and their philanthropic ‘artwashing’. Goldin has spearheaded demos and die-ins at Sackler-connected institutions including the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre. This, in turn, has led to refusals of Sackler money by institutions including the National Portrait Gallery (after Goldin threatened to pull out of a planned solo exhibition of her work) and Tate, as well as her arrest at a protest in New York. Goldin is living proof that art, and artists, can effect change.