P.A.I.N. Favorite 



Mar 10 2017


New York

Anti-opioid activists unfurled banners and scattered pill bottles on Saturday inside the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which is named for a family connected to the powerful painkilling drug OxyContin.

The protest, which was organized by a group started by the celebrated photographer Nan Goldin, started just after 4 p.m., when several dozen people converged at the Temple of Dendur inside the wing.

The wing is named after Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, brothers who in the 1970s donated $3.5 million toward its construction. Their scientific and marketing skills also transformed a small business into what became Purdue Pharma, the company that developed OxyContin, which has been widely prescribed and abused. The drug is among the most common painkillers involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths, which have become an unrelenting crisis in the United States.

On Saturday the protesters called for cultural institutions to reject money from the Sackler family. They also demanded, among other things, that Purdue, which has been accused of using deceptive and aggressive tactics to market OxyContin, fund addiction treatment.

As onlookers watched, protesters brandished black banners with the phrases “Shame on Sackler” and “Fund Rehab” and hurled yellow pill bottles with white labels that read “OxyContin” and “prescribed to you by the Sacklers” into the wing’s reflecting pool.

Ms. Goldin announced a series of demands in the form of short statements, including “harm reduction” and “treatment,” that were repeated loudly by the crowd.

“We are artists, activists, addicts,” she shouted. “We are fed up.”

Ms. Goldin — whose intimate photographs documenting drug use, violence and deaths from AIDS are displayed in numerous museums, including the Metropolitan — started an anti-opioid group called Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, or PAIN, after being addicted to OxyContin from 2014 to 2017. She has called withdrawal from OxyContin the darkest experience of her life.

A spokesman for the museum declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for the Sackler family did not respond to a request for comment. A Purdue spokesman, Robert Josephson, said the company is “deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis” and is dedicated to helping solve it by paying for prescription-drug monitoring programs and collaborating with law enforcement.

OxyContin has accounted for tens of billions of dollars in sales since entering the market in 1996.

In 2007, Purdue’s parent company pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge of misbranding the drug, which prosecutors said was marketed as less addictive, less subject to abuse and less likely to cause withdrawal than other painkillers. Since then, states have accused Purdue in lawsuits of misrepresenting the risks and benefits of OxyContin, allegations the company has denied.

Arthur Sackler died before OxyContin was developed, and his descendants say they have not profited from the drug. Among them is Elizabeth A. Sackler, who founded a center for feminist art at the Brooklyn Museum, and said recently that she admired Ms. Goldin’s activism while describing Purdue’s role in the opioid epidemic as “morally abhorrent.”

Since 1998, foundations run by Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, who died in 2010 and in 2017, and their families have given tens of millions of dollars to cultural institutions including the Dia Art Foundation and the Guggenheim in New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

In recent years the Metropolitan Museum appears to have received comparatively modest amounts from the Sacklers. For instance, the museum is listed on tax documents as having received a total of $190,000 from 2012 to 2016 from the Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation.

Still, Ms. Goldin said she and her group had chosen the museum as the site of their protest because of its high profile in the art world and because they see it as symbolic of the fact that Sackler family members are often viewed primarily as art patrons rather than as owners of a pharmaceutical company.

Inside the Temple of Dendur on Saturday, security guards implored the protesters to quiet down and move on. About 50 protesters lay on the ground in a symbolic “die-in.” Then, about 20 minutes after the protest had begun, the crowd marched through the museum’s halls, brandishing their banners and chanting, “Sacklers lie; people die.”

They then gathered outside, clapping and chanting. Ms. Goldin addressed the crowd and, perhaps, the museum.

“We’re just getting started,” she said. “We’ll be back.”

MARCH 10, 2018
New York Times

Posted by srduncombe on

Staff rating: 

See user evaluation.