New York's Met says no to Sackler money amid opioid scandal

©Agence France-Presse

Dans la galerie Sackler du musée Met de New York, le 28 mars 2019

New York (AFP) - New York's Metropolitan Museum announced on Wednesday that it will cease accepting gifts from the billionaire Sackler family, amid allegations that it profited off the sale of the opioid OxyContin that is blamed for tens of thousands of deaths.

The move came after similar rejections by the Guggenheim museum in New York and the Tate in London as legal troubles mount for the Sacklers and their company Purdue Pharma, which manufactures the drug.

"The Sackler family has graciously supported The Met for 50 years and has not proposed any new contributions," the Met's president and CEO Daniel Weiss said in a statement.

"Nonetheless, in consideration of the ongoing litigation, the prudent course of action at this time is to suspend acceptance of gifts from individuals associated with this public health crisis."

The announcement came the same day that the American Museum of Natural History in New York said it had made a similar decision, without giving details.

The Centers for Disease Control blamed opioids for two-thirds of the 70,000 overdose deaths in the US in 2017, adding that 1.7 million people were suffering from addiction to painkillers like OxyContin in the same year.

The highly addictive drug is now subject to more than 1,000 lawsuits over its role in the opioid crisis with the Sacklers and their company accused of pushing for its prescription despite knowing how addictive it is.

As public fury has mounted against the family, Sackler-supported museums and cultural institutions have faced calls to reject the family's generosity.

Britain's National Portrait Gallery earlier in March canceled a one million pound ($1.3 million) donation from the Sackler Trust, the same month that the Tate and Guggenheim cut ties.

The Met's announcement came after months of public pressure, and in announcing the move Weiss emphasized the extent to which the prestigious American institution relies on donor funding.

The museum didn't immediately respond when asked how much money it had received from the Sacklers, or when the most recent donation came in. But an entire gallery bears the family's name -- an honor reserved only for the most generous of donors.

The museum said it has no plans yet to rename the gallery.