The Serpentine Galleries in London have removed the Sackler family name from their facade. Although the museum had already renamed the “Serpentine Sackler” collection to “Serpentine North” in the spring of last year, the controversial surname continued to appear above the main entrance.
The billionaire Sackler family is accused of having helped trigger the opioid crisis in the USA with their pharmaceutical company Purdue. The Sacklers owe a large part of their prosperity to the addictive painkiller Oxycontin, which drove hundreds of thousands into an often fatal addiction spiral. Because the Sacklers acted as patrons of the arts worldwide, several galleries and museums were named after the pharmaceutical companies in return for donations. The Serpentine Galleries picked up the moniker after a £5.5million donation from Theresa and Mortimer Sackler.
Hito Steyerl compared the sponsorship deals to being married to a serial killer
After the allegations became public in 2017, numerous collections gradually announced that they would remove the Sackler name. However, the houses often only reacted after protests from exhibiting artists. German media artist Hito Steyerl compared the 2019 sponsorship deals to marriage to a serial killer. On the occasion of her exhibition in the Serpentine Gallery, she presented an app that made the name Sackler disappear from the facade, at least virtually.
In the same year, the Guggenheim Museum and the Tate Gallery announced that they would no longer accept Sackler donations. The South London Gallery returned £125,000 to a Sacklers foundation. Only in December last year did the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announce that it was removing the name Sackler from its premises. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Sackler Courtyard is one of the last institutions to continue to bear the name prominently.