Tate to Strip Sackler Name from Multiple Locations

February 9th, 2022

London’s Tate has become the latest institution to answer the sustained call for museums to remove the Sackler name from their public spaces owing to family members’ ties to Purdue Pharma. The drugmaker has been much in the headlines and in the courts over the past few years for its aggressive marketing of the powerful opioid OxyContin, sales of which are reputed have accounted for a large portion of the Sackler family’s estimated $13 billion in personal wealth.

The decision to remove the Sackler name from five locations at Tate’s two London outposts represents an about-face for the institution, which in 2019 had said it would refuse to accept donations from the Sacklers but would keep their name attached to its galleries, noting in a press release, “The Sackler family has given generously to [us] in the past, as they have to a large number of UK arts institutions. We do not intend to remove references to this historic philanthropy.”

Last week, however, British media reported that a plaque bearing the Sackler name had been removed from an escalator at Tate Modern; also slated for removal is a sign near the elevators and in a gallery there. At Tate Britain, the Sackler Octagon is to be renamed as is a gallery. Tate in a press release cast the decision to erase the Sackler name from its properties as “mutually agreed” upon “following conversations with the donor.” The Times of London additionally noted that a number of other UK arts institutions, including Kettle’s Yard Gallery, Cambridge, and Shakespeare’s Globe theater, in London, are silently removing—or have already deleted—the family’s name as well; the paper speculated that Sackler family members would not attempt to recover donated funds citing breach of contract as long as the removal was done without fanfare.

In December, the Sacklers saw their name blotted from the galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art amid a continued campaign by advocacy group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) founded by artist Nan Goldin. Accusing the Sacklers of “artwashing” profits gained from Purdue via large donations made to museums in return for naming rights, the group has successfully lobbied various major arts institutions to refuse the family’s money and remove the Sackler name from public spaces.