Spanish art show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is removing paintings connected to opioid industry

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is removing a painting of a nude woman by the 18th-century Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn, at the request of the family who own the painting. A painting by Diego Velázquez and a tapestry by a Venetian artist are also being removed. The three works are all part of a show of Spanish art the Met recently purchased. The Sackler family, an art and merchant dynasty of Jewish descent from Todt Hill, New York, has been heavily criticized by some members of the art community after The New York Times reported on the family’s extensive ties to prescription opioid companies. In May, after receiving multiple requests from the museum’s board, the board agreed to removing the three paintings.

In an accompanying letter from the museum’s president and CEO, Jeffrey G. Gural, both the museum and the Sackler family “respect” their decision, and stated that they understand the pain that their removal will cause. The Sackler family first announced a commitment to ending the sale of artwork by their company, Purdue Pharma, in 2015. Between 1994 and 2014, the Sackler family owned or controlled a large portfolio of more than 40 art works owned by the company. Many of those works were sold at auction for profits totaling more than $1 billion. Drug companies are allowed to make money from the sale of their brand-name prescription drugs, but Sackler family members and company executives were allowed to participate in the sale of the drugs in which they were involved, an arrangement prohibited by both state and federal law. The Sackler family continue to be involved in the opioid industry, with an $88.2 million stake in a company that sells the drug OxyContin.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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