6 museums and universities that are rejecting money from the wealthy family that's accused of fuelling the opioid crisis

Chance Yeh /Patrick McMullan via Getty ImagesMortimer Sackler and Jacqueline Sackler attend the Guggenheim International Gala on November 9, 2006. Mortimer and his brother Raymond co-chaired the company that developed OxyContin.
  • One of America’s wealthiest families has come under fire for its role in developing and marketing OxyContin.
  • The Sackler family amassed a fortune through the Connecticut-based company Purdue Pharma, which launched the highly addictive drug that has been at the heart of America’s opioid crisis.
  • The growing pressure on the Sackler family for the drug’s role at the center of the opioid crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans has caused many institutions to reconsider millions in charitable contributions.
  • Here’s a list of which institutions have received sizeable donations, which now includes New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.

One of America’s wealthiest families has come under fire from advocacy groups, legal authorities, and elite cultural institutions across the world for its role in marketing the prescription painkiller OxyContin.

The Sackler family amassed an estimated $US13 billion fortune through the Connecticut-based company Purdue Pharma, which launched the highly addictive drug that has been at the heart of America’s opioid crisis, which was declared a national emergency in 2017.

While the company and family have denied wrongdoing, about 2,000 lawsuits have been filed against Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers nationwide. In March, the company and family settled the first such case for $US270 million, about $US100 million of which will help fund an addiction treatment center.

The Sacklers have given millions to universities, museums, and foundations to support the arts and sciences over the years. But now the list of arts, culture, and educational institutions reconsidering their relationship with the Sacklers keeps growing.

The South London Gallery

View Pictures/UIG via Getty ImagesSouth London Gallery, 65 Peckham Road, London.

The small gallery returned a £125,000 (around $US165,000) gift from the family last year after the board voted to protect the institution’s reputation.

Tate Gallery group

Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty ImagesThe Tate Modern Switch House in London, United Kingdom.

The London-based Tate Group announced in March it would not accept any further gifts from the Sackler Trust for any of the four museums it owns across England.

Guggenheim Museum

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Guggenheim Museum in New York, as seen from Fifth Avenue on May 14, 2009.

The museum announced one day after the Tate group that it wouldn’t accept any more gifts from the family.

Columbia University

Raymond Boyd/Getty ImagesThe sculpture of the Goddess Athena sits outside the Library of Columbia University in New York, New York.

The university announced in February it wasn’t currently accepting donations from any Sackler-related groups, which had previously funded initiatives like the school’s Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology.

The UK’s National Portrait Gallery

Alberto Manuel Urosa Toledano/Getty ImagesA view of the National Portrait Gallery and St. Martin in the Field in London’s Trafalgar square.

The National Portrait Gallery in London announced in March it wouldn’t accept a long-expected $US1.3 million donation from the Sackler Trust.

PhotographerNan Goldin had said she wouldn’t host a retrospective of her career at the gallery if it accepted the money.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art

Luciano Mortula / Shutterstock.comThe Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, first announced it was reviewing its relationship with the family in March.

On May 15, the Met announced it would stop receiving gifts from the Sackler family, The New York Times reported.

“The museum takes a position of gratitude and respect to those who support us, but on occasion, we feel it’s necessary to step away from gifts that are not in the public interest, or in our institution’s interest,” Met President Daniel H. Weiss said, according to The Times. “That is what we’re doing here.”

Other institutions that have received Sackler gifts may follow.


As the pressure builds from protests and ethics groups, many more institutions across the world are expected to respond by pushing back on gifts.

Many of the gifts were given through the Sackler Trust. Dame Theresa Sackler, chair of the Trust, released a statement saying the foundation was pausing new gifts.

“I am deeply saddened by the addiction crisis in America and support the actions Purdue Pharma is taking to help tackle the situation, whilst still rejecting the false allegations made against the company and several members of the Sackler family,” she said in the statement.

Sackler continued: “The current press attention that these legal cases in the United States is generating has created immense pressure on the scientific, medical, educational and arts institutions here in the UK, large and small, that I am so proud to support. This attention is distracting them from the important work that they do.”

Other institutions that have received Sackler gifts include:

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