Sackler Trust cancels £1m donation to National Portrait Gallery
Geraldine Kendall Adams, 21.03.2019
Controversial gift led to threatened boycott of gallery
The Sackler Trust has withdrawn a planned £1m donation to London’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) after controversy over the Sackler family’s role in the US opioid crisis.
The money would have supported the gallery’s planned £35.5m transformation project. The decision comes weeks after the photographer Nan Goldin threatened to pull a planned retrospective of her work at the NPG if it accepted the gift.
Several members of the Sackler family, who own the pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma, are facing multimillion-dollar lawsuits in the US after being accused of knowingly concealing the addictive nature of the painkiller OxyContin, which has been blamed for thousands of opioid-related deaths.
In a statement this week, the National Portrait Gallery and the Sackler Trust said they had “jointly agreed not to proceed” with the donation.
A spokesperson for the trust said: “The allegations against family members are vigorously denied, but to avoid being a distraction for the NPG, we have decided not to proceed at this time with the donation. We continue to believe strongly in the gallery and the wonderful work it does.”
The gallery’s chair, David Ross, said: “I acknowledge the generosity of the Sackler Family and their support of the arts over the years. We understand and support their decision not to proceed at this time with the donation to the gallery.”
One of the biggest philanthropic donors in the UK, the Sackler Trust has previously supported a range of cultural institutions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of London and the National Gallery.