Campaigners target London's V&A Museum over its use of the Sackler name

Campaigners target London's V&A Museum over its use of the Sackler name
By: WNG CNBC Posted On: November 17, 2019 View: 18

Campaigners target London's V&A Museum over its use of the Sackler name

Campaigners gather at London's V&A Museum on Saturday Nov. 16, 2019, to protest against its display of the Sackler name.

CNBC's Chloe Taylor

Campaigners gathered at London's famous Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum Saturday to protest against its display of the Sackler name.

Some members of the billionaire Sackler family are known for founding and owning Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical giant that produces Oxycontin — a prescription painkiller that has been widely blamed for helping fuel the U.S. opioid crisis.

Saturday's protest saw campaigners from Sackler PAIN, a group led by photographer Nan Goldin, gather in the V&A's Sackler courtyard, named after the family and constructed using funds they donated.

The group of around 30 staged a five minute "die-in" to "honor the five people in the U.K. who die each day of an overdose." They called on the museum to take down the Sackler name, throwing dollars stained with red paint and empty Oxycontin bottles in the courtyard.

In July, V&A Director Tristram Hunt told the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper that although the museum would no longer accept money from the family, it would not be taking their name down or "denying the past."

Earlier this year, Sackler PAIN held a demonstration in New York's Guggenheim Museum, which also had a history of accepting money from the family. The museum in March confirmed to CNBC that it would no longer take donations from the Sacklers.

In July, Paris' famous Louvre Museum removed the Sackler name from one of its major wings after Sackler PAIN demonstrated in the gallery. However, some institutions told CNBC earlier this year that they were legally obligated to keep the Sackler name on their walls even if they no longer accepted their money.

Back in September, Purdue filed for bankruptcy after settling more than 2,000 lawsuits related to the company's marketing of the drug. Claimants in the suit accused both members of the Sackler family and Purdue of downplaying the addiction risks of the of Oxycontin in order to boost profits.

"The U.K. must know that this is not an American problem," protesters said on Saturday. "Five people die of an overdose every day in the U.K."

In February, an investigation by British newspaper The Sunday Times revealed that five people a day were dying from overdoses of prescription opioids. According to the paper, U.K. prescriptions of opioids jumped 29% in the decade to 2017, while overdoses surged 89% and deaths rose by 41%.

Speaking to CNBC at the demonstration, Goldin accused V&A Director Hunt of being "shameless" in his support of the Sackler family.

"We want him to publicly denounce his connection to them, and then eventually to take down the name," she said. "They don't need millions of dollars' worth of porcelain tiles — when people say where are museums going to get their funding, maybe the museums should spend their money better."

Spokespersons for the V&A Museum and the Sackler family were not immediately available when contacted by CNBC.

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