The Louvre in Paris has removed the name of the Sackler family from its walls, becoming the first major museum to erase its public association with the philanthropist family linked with the opioid crisis in the United States.
The Louvre’s collection of Persian and Levantine artifacts is housed in a wing which has been known as the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities since 1997.
But on Wednesday, a plaque acknowledging the Sacklers’ donations had been removed from the gallery’s entrance, and references to “the Sackler Wing” on other signs in the museum had been covered with gray tape.
Members of the Sackler family own Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, an enormously profitable and frequently abused painkiller that is the subject of numerous lawsuits in the United States.
In March, cultural institutions across Europe and the United States including the Tate group of museums in Britain and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, said they would not accept further donations from the family. The Sackler Trust and the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, two foundations based in Britain, suspended further philanthropy.
But most museums also said they would respect past philanthropy and would not be changing the name of any wing or gallery named after the family.
Sophie Aguirre, 50, a guard at the Louvre, said on Wednesday that the plaque at the wing was taken down on either July 8 or 9, when the wing was closed to visitors.
Nine other signs in the building that referenced the wing had been taped over. Ms. Aguirre said another large sign that acknowledged the Sackler donation had also been removed.
References to “the Sackler Wing” have also been removed from the Louvre’s website.
On Tuesday, Jean-Luc Martinez, the museum’s president, told RTL, a French radio station, that the Sackler name had been taken down because the Louvre’s policy on naming rights is that they last for 20 years. “This naming dates back to 1993,” he said, referring to the year of donation.
Nadia Refsi, a spokeswoman for the Louvre, did not respond to emails asking why, if naming rights only lasted 20 years, the name had not been painted over earlier.
The Sackler family declined to comment through a spokesman from Edelman, the public relations firm that represents them in Britain.
The Louvre’s action comes after the photographer Nan Goldin, a former opioid addict, led a protest outside the museum's famous glass pyramid by the activist group PAIN. At a small demonstration on July 1, activists unfurled a banner reading “Take down the Sackler name.”
“Museums and cultural institutions must maintain their integrity,” PAIN said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “They should not bear the name that is synonymous with the opioid crisis. Our museums belong to the artists and to the public, not to the donors.”
Many museums are contractually obliged to continue using the Sackler name. In June, the Smithsonian Institution said it would not remove the Sackler name from its Asian art museum and it was legally required to keep it, The Washington Post reported.
“We are not considering the removal of any signage related to our past or present donors,” a spokeswoman for the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, which has a Sackler Courtyard, said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. And Tate does not intend to rename the Sackler escalator at Tate Modern, it said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for the Jewish Museum in Berlin said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that the Louvre’s move did not change an earlier statement about its Sackler staircase. “We will not be changing the name because we feel that renaming would be an inappropriate attempt to disguise what happened,” that statement, issued in March, said. “It would also contradict the fact that we acted in good faith.”
Constant Méheut contributed reporting from Paris.
Alex Marshall is a European culture reporter, based in London. @alexmarshall81
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