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Trouble at the Sackler Trust

Through Art Market & You, Art From Us provides you with Analysis, Opinion and Factual Reports regarding the current on-goings of the Global Art Market. In this article, we explore the Trouble at the Sackler Trust.

Murky Waters

The art world knows the Sacklers as generous donors and promoters of arts & culture. A lesser known fact, until recently, was that the British family are also the owners of Purdue Pharma.

Purdue Pharma L.P. is the Sacklers’ primary money making venture. The pharmaceuticals company, founded in the late 19th century, is based out the United States. The controversy with Purdue Pharma is with regard to their pain killer, OxyContin. OxyContin is known to contain opioids which can cause addictions and even death. A lawsuit was filed in Oklahoma, against the company for producing and aggressively marketing the drug, thus making it freely available in the market. On 26th March, 2019, Purdue Pharma decided to settle the suit for $270 million.

Impact on the Art World

Irrespective of the on-goings of the lawsuit, the accusation that Purdue Pharma has promoted drug abuse in the United States is sufficient to have damages the reputation of the Sacklers.

Sackler is an extremely prominent name in the art world, with the Guggenheim, Louvre, Smithsonian and the MET having wings funded by them. After the outbreak of the scandal however, art institutions want nothing to do with the family or their ‘dirty money’. The controversy calls to question all art events funded by billionaire businessmen. In late 2018, American institutions made a unanimous decision to reject funding from  Misk Art Institute, after the purported murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Misk is funded by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

For now, the Saklers have announced that they will not take on any new philanthropic funding. Theresa Sackler stated:

“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.”

To read more on facts and opinions, visit Art Market & You.

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