Photographer Nan Goldin and nearly 100 other demonstrators staged a protest over the weekend against a Big Pharma donor’s contribution to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by dumping mock pill bottles into the moat at the Temple of Dendur.
The 2,000-year-old temple is located in the museum’s Sackler wing, which was named after brothers Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler. The family owns Purdue Pharmaceuticals, which makes and aggressively markets its prescription painkiller OxyContin. The pills’ sole active ingredient, oxycodone, is among the most common painkillers found in prescription opioid deaths.
Protesters shouted “shame on the Sacklers” as they tossed the pill bottles, which were labeled: “Prescribed to you by the Sackler Family,” The Guardian reported. Demonstrators also demanded that the family fund drug treatment for addicts.
“In the name of the dead, Sackler family, Purdue Pharma. Hear our demands. Use your profits. Save our lives,” said Goldin per ARTNews.
At the end of the demonstration, the protesters laid on the ground and staged an opioid overdose “die in.”
Although security guards ordered the protesters to disperse, no action was taken to detain them. The demonstrators left about 20 minutes after the protest began, according to The Guardian.
The museum did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the protest and the Sackler family could not be reached for comment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42,000 people in the U.S. died in 2016 from opioid overdoses.
In 2007, Purdue’s parent company pleaded guilty to a federal felony charge of mischaracterizing OxyContin, which prosecutors said was marketed as less addictive and less likely to cause withdrawal than other painkillers. A number of states have since accused Purdue in lawsuits of deceptively marketing its products to make billions of dollars.
A 2017 New Yorker article about the Sacklers revealed how the family has attempted to sanitize its name with massive museum and art contributions.
The Met protest was not Goldin’s first attempt to effect change on this issue. She also founded the group Prescription Addiction Intervention Now and launched a petition on Change.org calling on the Sackler family to use their “vast fortune” that was made producing “one of the most addictive painkillers ever” to fund rehab and other treatments.