NPG rejects £1m Sackler sponsorship

The National Portrait Gallery has turned down £1m in sponsorship from the Sackler Trust because of the controversy over the drug OxyContin produced by the Sackler pharmaceutical company.

Last month the photographer Nan Goldin threatened to withdraw from a forthcoming exhibition at the the gallery if it accepted the Sackler grant.

The grant would have been an important part of the fundraising for a £35.5m development, Inspiring People, that will include a redisplay of the collection and a new education centre.

Goldin’s protest highlighted a growing concern over the origins of the Sackler fortune after it was revealed that the opioid painkiller developed by the Sackler company, Purdue Pharma, was addictive, and was the subjects of lawsuits following overdose deaths.

The decision was said today to be mutual, with the trust saying it was withdrawing because “recent reporting of allegations made against Sackler family members may cause this new donation to deflect the National Portrait Gallery from its important work”, allegations that the Sacklers reject.

But last year NPG director Nicholas Cullinan set up an ethics committee to scrutinise potentially controversial donations for the development which was handed a report on the Sackler in February.

The Sackler Trust, set up by Mortimer Sackler, who died in 2010, and his British wife Theresa and in recent years has been a generous benefactor to major arts organisations, including Tate, the National Gallery, the V&A, the Natural History Museum, the Serpentine, the Museum of London, the Design Museum, Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Courtauld.

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