London’s National Portrait Gallery Rescinds $1.3 Million Donation from Sackler Family, Owners of OxyContin Pharma Company

London's National Portrait Gallery is pictured next to a bottle of OxyContin. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP, and Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

London's National Portrait Gallery is pictured next to a bottle of OxyContin. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP, and Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

The National Portrait Gallery in London and the Sackler family, owners of the pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma LP, have said in a statement that the £1,000,000 donation, about $1.3 million, from the Sackler Trust to the gallery’s Inspiring People project will not proceed.

Purdue Pharma LP is the maker of the prescription opioid OxyContin, which was approved in 1995 by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The company has been in the spotlight recently due to a series of lawsuits. One of them, brought by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office, accuses Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, of profiting from the opioid crisis by aggressively marketing OxyContin.

“The giving philosophy of the family has always been to actively support institutions while never getting in the way of their mission,” a spokesperson for the Sackler Trust said in a statement about the cessation of its donation to London’s National Portrait Gallery.

“It has become evident that recent reporting of allegations made against Sackler family members may cause this new donation to deflect the National Portrait Gallery from its important work,” the statement continued.

The statement adds that the allegations against family members “are vigorously denied.”

David Ross, chair of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a statement: “I acknowledge the generosity of the Sackler Family and their support of the Arts over the years. We understand and support their decision not to proceed at this time with the donation to the Gallery.”

The Sackler name can be spotted in several art institutions across the world. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has the Sackler Wing, which houses the Temple of Dendur. Last year it was also the scene of an anti-opioid protest.

Other gifts from the Sackler family include one wing at the Louvre, a courtyard at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, a center for feminist art at the Brooklyn Museum and an arts education center at the Guggenheim Museum of Art in New York.

Many of these institutions have faced increasing pressure to return their gifts and remove the family name from their facilities.

The National Portrait Gallery, founded in 1856, is located in the heart of London. It receives millions of visitors yearly. “The Primary Collection of paintings, sculpture, miniatures, drawings, prints and photographs contains some 11,100 portraits of the most famous people in British history,” according to the gallery website.

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