Freer|Sackler and the Opioid Crisis

19 10 2017

Some food for thought the next time you find yourself “Encountering the Buddha” at the Freer|Sackler . . .

As reported today on Democracy Now! (and elsewhere previously:  “The Secretive Family Making Billions from the Opioid Crisis,”  “How the American opiate epidemic was started by one pharmaceutical company” ), the same Sackler family for which the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Asian art is named is making billions from the manufacture and sale of Oxycontin.

Democracy Now! interviews journalist Christopher Glazek, who writes in the Esquire:

The newly installed Sackler Courtyard at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the most glittering places in the developed world […] The Sackler Courtyard is the latest addition to an impressive portfolio. There’s the Sackler Wing at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses the majestic Temple of Dendur, a sandstone shrine from ancient Egypt; additional Sackler wings at the Louvre and the Royal Academy; stand-alone Sackler museums at Harvard and Peking Universities; and named Sackler galleries at the Smithsonian, the Serpentine, and Oxford’s Ashmolean. The Guggenheim in New York has a Sackler Center, and the American Museum of Natural History has a Sackler Educational Lab.

Esquire pull quote:

The family’s leaders have pulled off three of the great marketing triumphs of the modern era: The first is selling OxyContin; the second is promoting the Sackler name; and the third is ensuring that, as far as the public is aware, the first and the second have nothing to do with one another.

As Glazek reports, the Oxy market in the U.S. is diminishing due to regulatory issues and bad press, and so, “borrowing from the Big Tobacco playbook,” the Sacklers are turning to overseas markets.

The Democracy Now! interview concludes:

AMY GOODMAN: In May, a dozen members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to the World Health Organization that warned the Sackler-owned drug companies were preparing to flood foreign countries with legal narcotics. The letter mentions the Sacklers by name, notes they own Purdue Pharma, and reads, quote, “Purdue began the opioid crisis that has devastated American communities. … Today, Mundipharma is using many of the same deceptive and reckless practices to sell OxyContin abroad.” Mundipharma, owned by the Sacklers. And the L.A. Times reporting the company circulated a press release in Colombia that suggested 47 percent of the population suffered from chronic pain. Your final comment on all of this, Christopher Glazek, and where it goes now?

CHRISTOPHER GLAZEK: Well, the big question is complicity, and it’s a really tricky question. You know, is Tufts University complicit in the opioid epidemic because they’ve taken huge amounts of money from the Sacklers? You know, is a third-generation Sackler heir, who maybe is a documentary filmmaker or restaurateur—do they have some burden or complicity to address here? And I think that’s a complicated question. But the solution to complexity is not secrecy. And what we’ve seen again and again is that people who have taken Sackler money, and the Sacklers themselves, have concealed their connection to OxyContin. And that cannot be the solution to the problem.

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Standing Against Yellowface @ The MFA: “Kimono Wednesdays” Cancelled

9 07 2015

AAPI Activism shuts down “Kimono Wednesdays” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Protesters display signs on June 23 in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. The museum eventually canceled the 'Kimono Wednesday' event, which invited visitors to try on a replica kimono in front of Claude Monet's 'La Japonaise.' | AP / JOHN BLANDING / BOSTON GLOBE

Protesters display signs on June 23 in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. The museum eventually canceled the ‘Kimono Wednesday’ event, which invited visitors to try on a replica kimono in front of Claude Monet’s ‘La Japonaise.’ | AP / JOHN BLANDING / BOSTON GLOBE (via Japan Times)

Stand Against Yellowface @ the MFA:

Follow Amber Ying on Twitter

HEADLINES

HuffPost:  Museum’s ‘Kimono Wednesdays’ Cancelled After Claims Of Racism

LA Times:  Boston art museum cancels kimono event after claims of racism

Japan Times:  Cries of racism prompt Boston art museum to cancel ‘Kimono Wednesdays’

BACKGROUND

MFA Kimono

Image and comment thread from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston Facebook page, post dated June 19, 2015. (via bigredandshiny.org)

BigRedAndShiny:  Demonstrators Protest Cultural Appropriation in MFA Galleries

Yellowface at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, February 19, 2015.

Yellowface at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, February 19, 2015.

Our Post on Yellowface at AAMSF (02/24/15):  Yellowface is Such a Drag

Of course, what would an AAPI protest be without a counterprotest on behalf of honorary white status:

Just a reminder that Orientalism is indeed integral to white supremacist structural racism (and no need to call it “neo” Orientalism, because after centuries of investment in this system of “knowledge,” it is liberal fantasy to believe it ever went away—case in point: the genealogy of East Asian studies at major US universities, aka “American Orientalism“).

Andrea Smith’s Three Pillars of White Supremacy (2010).

Andrea Smith’s Three Pillars of White Supremacy (2010).

Politics of Cultural Appropriation





Should City Art Museums be Free?

15 08 2012

Detroit Institute of Arts Museum

An article in today’s Detroit Free Press reports on how “attendance more than tripled last week compared with the same five-day period in 2011,” after the Detroit Institute of Arts made admission free to residents of three local counties “in exchange for voters’ approval a day earlier of a property tax in all three counties to support the museum.”

The bump in attendance was helped by ongoing special exhibitions, as well as media attention on the local tax measure which is designed to sustain the museum by enabling it to grow its endowment.

Other museums which have “gone free” also report substantial growth in attendance.

At the Baltimore Museum of Art, a recent contemporary show drew 80% more visitors than the average contemporary show prior to eliminating admission in 2006.

“The Baltimore museum is drawing an average of 43% more first-time visitors since it went free.

“The Indianapolis Museum of Art reinstituted free admission in 2007 after briefly charging a fee in the wake of an expansion. Attendance soared 152% in the first year after eliminating the fee, but a blockbuster show of Roman art that year from the Louvre in Paris attracted 112,000 and surely skewed the numbers, said Candace Gwaltey, public relations manager at the museum.”

It’s encouraging that city museums around the country are finding ways to fulfill their civic roles as cultural stewards in the public commons, by not only making art accessible to everyone regardless of financial status, but also removing the troubling burden of earned income from the ticket gate while drawing ever larger audiences.

It’s ironic that by making museums free, the resulting growth in attendance could only make corporate sponsors happy (right?), thus leading to greater sustainability.  Could this be a wave of the future?








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