BY Frieze News Desk in News | 17 JUL 19

Louvre Erases Sackler Name Following Anti-Opioids Protests

According to Nan Goldin’s advocacy organization P.A.I.N., the Paris museum has taped over plaques bearing the family name

BY Frieze News Desk in News | 17 JUL 19

P.A.I.N. activists, Louvre, Paris, 2019. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Stephane de Sakutin, AFP

The Louvre Museum in Paris has removed the Sackler name from its building and website, according to a press release issued by the Paris branch of the advocacy organization P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now). P.A.I.N. was founded by the activist and artist Nan Goldin in 2017 to campaign against members of the Sackler family’s alleged links to the opioid crisis in the US.

The alleged action comes after a number of high-profile protests, including a P.A.I.N. demonstration outside the Louvre on 1 July, which called for the ‘Sackler Wing’ – consisting of 12 rooms in the institution’s ‘oriental antiquities wing’ – to be renamed. During the protest, several activists held a banner reading ‘Take down the Sackler name.’

P.A.I.N called for the removal of the name, because much of the wealth of certain Sackler family members comes from the sale of OxyContin, a prescription painkiller. The drug is thought to have sparked the opioid crisis in the United States, which is killing more than 100 people a day.

On Tuesday 17 July, Jean-Luc Martinez, President of the Louvre Museum, spoke on the French radio station RTL and claimed that the museum wing did not have to be renamed, because the Sackler name had already been removed from the gallery, a claim which P.A.I.N. refute. According to Martinez, donors’ names only appear in the gallery for a period of 20 years and, since the donation took place in 1993, the name had been removed in 2013.

P.A.I.N. have refuted this statement, calling it a ‘lie on two counts’: ‘First, the nomination of the rooms in tribute to the Sackler family took place in 1997 (two years after the introduction of Oxycontin), not in 1993. Second, the museum’s website and the plaques at the entrance to the Sackler Wing rooms were clearly marked with the family name just a few weeks ago,’ their press statement reads.

Since Martinez’s statement, P.A.I.N. claim that the Louvre have erased the Sackler name from their website and an ‘on-site contact’ has reported that the plaques inside the gallery have been covered with tape. The organization has supplied images to prove that the plaques have been recently taped over.

Earlier this year, the Louvre confirmed that they received funds from Theresa and Mortimer Sackler to refurbish its Persian and Levantine art galleries in the period 1996–1997. No donations have been made in the period since, but the gallery has not committed to refusing money from the family in the future. In March, London’s National Portrait Gallery became the first major arts institution to drop Sackler funding, when they declined a GBP£1 million donation. 

Writing in their press statement, a representative from P.A.I.N. said: ‘We protest against this attempt to rewrite history and call on Jean-Luc Martinez to rectify his statements as soon as possible in order to make official the removal of the Sackler name from the Louvre. However, we, P.A.I.N., take the liberty of anticipating this official announcement which may never be coming, and announce that the Sackler name, in the 12 rooms of the Louvre’s Wing of Oriental Antiquities, have been removed.’

At the time of writing the Louvre Museum had not responded to frieze’s request for comment.