Skip to content

Recently, the name Sackler affixed to a major wing of The Louvre museum in Paris, has been taken down. According to officials at The Louvre, it was because the said name belonging to the art philanthropist family that funded the refurbishment of the rooms in that section, has reached the end of a 20-year legal term for its use as the name of the rooms.

The action taken by The Louvre would have been regarded as a standard practice, except the name was taken down only after a protest was held by Nan Goldin, an American art photographer and activist. Apparently the name of the donors belonged to Mortimer and Theresa Sackler, owners of Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical company that amassed a fortune out of the production and sale of the highly addictive painkiller known as OxyContin.

A day before The Louvre removed the Sackler name, Nan Goldin and activist members of the Paris-based campaign group called PAIN or Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, had waded into the fountains of The Louvre; whilst carrying red banners written with “Take down the Sackler name” as their protest message. .

At the time the protest was held on 1 July, The Louvre still had on display the Sackler name on its website and on the museum walls of 12 rooms containing eastern antiquities, and key pieces of The Louvre's Persian collection.

Although Goldin and the PAIN group acknowledged that donations are important to the functioning of museums, they assert that such donations must also be ethical. The American art activist explained by saying,

“Museums are for the public and the artists; they do not belong to donors. These are supposed to be places where people can receive a higher form of education experienced through art, and not a place where they come into contact with dirty money.”

Satisfied that The Louvre took action by taking down the Sackler name, Goldin expressed satisfaction by saying direct action works. What is important is that the name has been scrubbed out of institutions and museums. She pointed out that The Louvre being the most visited museum in the world, should have been the first to remove the name from its walls.

When asked by the press if the museum removed the Sackler name in reaction to the protests held by Goldin and the PAIN activists, museum officials did not make any further comment.

What’s Wrong with the Sackler Name and The Family’s Pharma Business?

Not many are aware that the family gained most of its wealth from the blockbuster prescription painkiller, which their Purdue Pharma branded as OxyContin. The pill, which was first launched in1996 is said to be stronger than morphine and has been pinpointed as the cause of the current opioid crisis.

Termed crisis because the OxyContin drug is said to be causing the deaths of more than 100 people everyday in America, and has turned millions into drug addicts. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is costing the US government an estimated $78 billion plus a year.

People at the Purdue Pharma company, had previously admitted in a 2007 criminal lawsuit that they had misbranded the painkiller. Thereafter a wave of lawsuits have been filed in courts, assailing the deception involved in covering up the unsafe use of OxyContin,

Still many, have noted that none of the Sackler family members have been named in the lawsuits. Presumably, the family’s philanthropic role in the field of art and education in major institutions like The Louvre and several others, has helped keep the family name out of courts. Rob Reich, professor of ethics at Stanford University, calls such philanthropic acts as “reputation laundering”