The National Gallery has become the latest British cultural institution to remove the disgraced Sackler name from its walls.
The announcement, which follows similar decisions from the Tate galleries and British Museum, among others, leaves the Victoria and Albert Museum as the last major institution in the UK with the Sackler name on the building. It remains home to the Sackler Courtyard, a result of an £8 million donation in 2012.
Since 1992, Room 34 of the National Gallery has been called the Sackler Room. It houses works by 17th- and 18th-century British artists, including by the likes of Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds and JMW Turner.
Room 34 was also the setting for a scene in the 2012 James Bond film, Skyfall. Bond met Q in front of Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire (1839).
Despite being one of Britain’s biggest art benefactors over the last three decades, the Sackler name is now inexorably linked to OxyContin and America’s opioid epidemic, which has claimed over 500,000 lives. The Sacklers made the vast majority of their once $13 billion fortune as the owners of Purdue Pharma – the drugmaker whose main product was OxyContin.
In a joint statement announcing the decision, The National Gallery and the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation – the family’s UK based charity – said they had “agreed that after 30 years the naming of Room 34 as the Sackler Gallery should come to an end”. A spokeswoman for the National Gallery expressed gratitude for the “support it has received from the foundation to undertake its educational and collection-related programmes.”
The Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler is just one of the family’s three charities. Between them, they’ve donated a staggering £168.5 million to a multitude of causes in the last 13 years.