His brothers were similarly generous. They joined with their older brother to fund the Sackler Wing at the Met, which features the Temple of Dendur exhibit. The Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation was the principal donor of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London; the Sackler name is affiliated with prestigious colleges from Yale to the University of Oxford, as well as world-famous cultural organizations, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. There is even a Sackler Rose—so christened after Mortimer Sackler’s wife purchased the naming rights in her husband’s honor.
Now the goodwill gained from this philanthropy may be waning as the Sackler family has found itself in an uncomfortable spotlight over the past six months. Two national magazines recently examined the intersection of the family’s wealth from OxyContin and its philanthropy, as have other media outlets across the world. The family has also been targeted in a campaign by the photographer Nan Goldin to “hold the Sacklers accountable” for OxyContin’s role in the opioid crisis. Goldin, who says she became addicted to OxyContin after it was prescribed for surgical pain, led a protest last month at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in which demonstrators tossed pill bottles labeled as OxyContin into the reflecting pool of its Sackler Wing.
While it doesn’t appear that any recipients of Sackler charitable contributions have returned gifts or pledged to reject future ones, pressure and scrutiny on many of those institutions is intensifying. In London, the National Portrait Gallery said it is reviewing a current pledge from the Sackler Trust.
Against that backdrop, Jillian Sackler, who was Arthur’s third wife, turned to Rubenstein Communications, which has been distributing a “fact sheet” to media reporting on the controversy.
The first item listed was that “Arthur M. Sackler, his widow, and heirs have never financially benefited from the sale of OxyContin.” It went on to say, “Prominent news media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, The Economist, CNN, the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, The Guardian, HuffPost, Art News, etc., have published corrections and clarifications noting the distinction between Arthur M. Sackler and his heirs—who have had no financial interest in the sale of OxyContin—and other branches of the Sackler family."
BerlinRosen, a public-relations firm in New York, represents Elizabeth Sackler, who has been openly critical of Purdue Pharma. She has said that none of her father’s descendants “benefited in any way” from the sale of OxyContin while adding: “I stand with all angry voices against abuse of power that harms or compromises any and all lives.”
Her charitable work, however, has received financial support from the side of the family that ran Purdue after her father’s death and earned profits from the sale of OxyContin. In 2011, Purdue Pharma donated $500,000 to a foundation named after Elizabeth’s uncle Mortimer, and the foundation gave the same amount to the Brooklyn Museum for the Sackler family curator at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Elizabeth Sackler is a trustee of the museum and the benefactor of the eponymous center, which is the permanent host of “The Dinner Party,” an installation by the artist Judy Chicago that features three large tables in the shape of a triangle. There are 39 place settings at the table for famous women, ranging from the mythical Fertile Goddess to the writer Virginia Woolf.
In 2012, Beverly Sackler, the wife of the youngest Sackler brother, Raymond, contributed $5,000 to Elizabeth Sackler’s charitable foundation, which has provided substantial financial support to the feminist center at the museum. A museum spokeswoman and Elizabeth Sackler’s spokesman declined to comment about the donations.
This post appears courtesy of ProPublica.