Tate Galleries Will Refuse Sackler Money Because of Opioid Links

LONDON — Tate, which runs some of Britain’s most important art museums, announced Thursday night that it will no longer accept financial donations from the Sackler family, whose pharmaceutical interests have been linked to the opioid crisis.

“The Sackler family has given generously to Tate in the past, as they have to a large number of U.K. arts institutions,” a Tate statement said.

"We do not intend to remove references to this historic philanthropy. However, in the present circumstances we do not think it right to seek or accept further donations from the Sacklers.”

Tate’s trustees made the decision after advice from the institution’s independent ethics committee, a spokesman said in an email.

The news is the latest sign of the changing climate in the art world toward the Sacklers, who are major donors to museums. Family members own Purdue Pharma, which makes the painkiller OxyContin and is facing hundreds of lawsuits as a result of the epidemic of opioid addiction.

Tate’s statement came two days after Britain’s National Portrait Gallery said it would not accept a long-discussed $1.3 million donation from the London-based Sackler Trust, one of the family’s charitable foundations. It said the decision was taken jointly by the gallery and Trust.

But the Thursday announcement, affecting Tate Modern and Tate Britain in London, as well as Tate Liverpool and Tate St. Ives in Cornwall, could have a bigger impact in the art world. All these galleries are major tourist attractions as well as home to large, high-profile exhibitions.

The communications adviser to the Sackler Trust did not immediately respond to a text message asking for comment. But the trust said this week that it “vigorously denied” allegations against the family in its statement that announced the National Portrait Gallery grant would not go ahead.

“To avoid being a distraction for the National Portrait Gallery, we have decided not to proceed at this time with the donation,” it said.

Much of the focus on the Sacklers’ donations to art institutions has been in the United States, where deaths and addiction associated with prescription opioids have become an unrelenting crisis. But awareness of the crisis is high in Britain, and that has led to pressure on galleries, with the news media asking frequent questions about donations from the Sacklers.

Tate has received over $5 million from Sackler family trusts, including the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation based in Britain, according to the BBC. The trust helped finance the 2016 extension to Tate Modern known as the Blavatnik Building

There was little immediate reaction to the news from other institutions in Britain or the United States. Ken Weine, vice president and chief communications officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, said it was aware of Tate’s announcement but that the museum had nothing to add to a statement issued last month by Daniel Weiss, the Met’s president and chief executive.

“The Sackler family has been connected with the Met for more than a half century,” Mr. Weiss’s statement said. “The family is a large extended group and their support of The Met began decades before the opioid crisis.”

“The Met is currently engaging in a further review of our detailed gift acceptance policies, and we will have more to report in due course,” it went on to say.

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, which has also received money from members of the Sackler family, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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