Nan Goldin Takes Her Fight Against Opioids to the Sackler Wing of Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Artist Nan Goldin was joined by nearly a 100 people this
weekend at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Sackler Wing. There
to protest the Sackler family many of whom have amassed a
fortune through Purdue Pharma, the
company that developed and marketed
OxyContin, Goldin and her fellow protestors threw empty pill
bottles into the moat that surrounds the Temple of
, the heart of the museum’s Egyptian wing.

The Guardian
that the prescription labels normally attached to
the ubiquitous orange bottles had been replaced with a label
that read “prescribed to you by the Sackler Family.” Goldin’s
protest is part of an ongoing fight against the Sacklers that
she began in late January. In an Artforum
Goldin—a photographer who rose to prominence in the
mid-’80s after she published The Ballad of Sexual
, a nuanced look at sexuality, violence, and
drug abuse—described her own recent addiction to opioids after
the painkillers were prescribed to her following wrist surgery.

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Photographer Nan Goldin Is Fighting the
Sackler Family Over Their Opioid Empire

Nan Goldin, the photographer known for her images of early
’70s and ’80s New York City nightlife…

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The experience left Goldin wary of the Sacklers’ increasingly
powerful position as cultural arbiters, as their wealth and
influence is built on addiction. “The bodies are piling up,”
Goldin wrote in Artforum. As the New Yorker

, the Sackler family has made major donations to
museums across America, their names now synonymous with wings
and galleries from New York to Washington, DC, and even Paris.

This weekend’s protest at the Met was part of Goldin’s ongoing
campaign aimed at convincing museums to stop taking money from
the Sacklers. The Met’s Temple of Dendur was a
purposeful choice. The temple, a centerpiece of both museum and
the Sackler Wing, is a monument, the New Yorker wrote,
to “one of America’s great philanthropic dynasties.” The
interplay between wealth and cultural influence has always been
particularly fraught, especially so American art museums.
Goldin’s protest is a persistent reminder that the purchase of
cultural capital is by no means free of politics or pain, but
more often than not, are deeply entangled with one another.

“Shame on Sackler,” Goldin and the protesters chanted as they
unfolded a banner that read “Fund Rehab.” Goldin and the
protesters stayed at the Met for 20 minutes before leaving the
museum. Video on YouTube shows that the event was peaceful,
though the group had one of their banners removed by a security
guard who asked the group to move outside.

“This action is to wake up the Sacklers and to make a comment
on museums accepting donations from these people and trying to
rationalize it,”
she told the Guardian

Update: In a lengthy statement to Jezebel,
Jillian Sackler, widow of Arthur Sackler, said that “much of
what’s been written in recent months about my late husband…is
utterly false.” “Arthur died nearly a decade before Purdue
Pharma – owned by the families of Mortimer and Raymond Sackler
(his brothers) — developed and marketed OxyContin.” The
statement describes Sackler as “a renowned art collector and
connoisseur.” She added: “None of the charitable donations made
by Arthur prior to his death, nor that I made on his behalf
after his death, were funded by the production, distribution or
sale of OxyContin or other revenue from Purdue Pharma. Period.”

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