Nan Goldin is many things, but slowing down is not one of them. Days after she was arrested outside the Governor of New York’s office protesting his inaction towards making safe injection sites available in New York City, the artist denounced the proposed settlement put forward by the Sackler family that would bring more than 2,000 lawsuits against them and Purdue Pharma to end.
The Sacklers and Purdue Pharma have been sued by cities, states, communities and families all across the country for their role in misleading the public on just how addictive OxyContin is, and profiting off of the global opioid crisis. The settlement would give plaintiffs somewhere between $10 to $12 billion from the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma combined and require the company to distribute addiction treatment drugs to the public at no cost.
In an interview with The Art Newspaper, Goldin called this a “completely unacceptable” public relations stunt that “makes it look as though they’re paying their dues.” She said that the sum they put forward does not begin to pay back the damage, referring to victims of the opioid crisis. Goldin added that she would like to see the Sacklers held responsible in court: “I would rather they faced trial, and that their personal wealth was clawed back.”
According to Forbes, the Sacklers rank among America’s 20 wealthiest families in, with a combined net worth of over $13 billion. Purdue Pharma, however, has reportedly made over $35 billion selling OxyContin, and has played a significant role in the public health crisis that takes over 130 American lives per day, costing the United States at least $1 trillion so far.
“They’ve ignited a public health emergency and they need to make restitution and they need to be held responsible,” Goldin added. “People who don’t know think, wow, 10 billion dollars, but it doesn’t begin to pay for the damage.”
In the past few months, Goldin, along with the activist group she founded, Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (PAIN), have held public protests at the world’s largest museums to draw attention to the funding that institutions receive from the Sacklers. The Met, Tate Museums and the Guggenheim, have all since renounced funding from the Sacklers and the Louvre recently removed their name from their walls.