Londoner’s Diary: What’s in a name? Arts venues face tough time over ‘tainted’ donors

·5-min read
National Gallery in London (AFP via Getty Images)
National Gallery in London (AFP via Getty Images)

ARTS institutions in London are feeling pressure to remove the Sackler name from their buildings after the New York’s Met museum renamed its Sackler Wing earlier this month.

Sackler family members who owned Purdue Pharma have been under fire for their role in the US’s opioid crisis, as their company created and sold the drug Oxycontin. They donated millions to the arts around the world. The Sackler name is now widely seen as tainted by association.

The Victoria and Albert museum, which has a Sackler courtyard, say they “not considering the removal of signage related to past or present donors”. The National Gallery, pictured, too say their Sackler room was a “historic donation” from 1993 and “therefore there are no current plans to change the name of the room”. The British Museum, which received funding from the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation between 1990 and 2013, say they are “not considering the removal of signage related to past or present donors”.

Institutions including the Tate and National Theatre previously received Sackler money, and some display the names prominently. Most say they will not take further money.

The Serpentine Gallery renamed two galleries earlier this year. The North Gallery was previously known as the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, though the institution claimed that the change was not to do with the opioid crisis. Serpentine chief executive Bettina Korek has a forthcoming article arguing that future art philanthropy is likely to involve less naming of buildings.

Patrick Radden Keefe, an American author who won this year’s Baillie Gifford prize for his book on the Sacklers, Empire of Pain, told The Londoner: “This is an interesting moment for arts and culture institutions, because people are raising tough questions about the provenance of the money they accept.” He said the Met decision would mean “it is going to get more difficult for these organisations to adopt a pose of willful blindness”.

Roadshow ‘does discuss colonialism’

Antiques Roadshow (Antiques Roadshow)
Antiques Roadshow (Antiques Roadshow)

The Antiques Roadshow has has defended itself after being accused of cultural ignorance for saying a 200-year-old Mughal ring “somehow” found its way to Britain. “Somehow is doing a lot of work,” Dan Hicks, author of The Brutish Museums, wrote. Hicks tells us he would just like to see more discussions of Britain’s colonial past on the show, but the BBC insist to The Londoner they do this already. Of the ring they add: “There was no definitive information about how it had come to be in the UK.”

May to mentor Oz’s female MPs

Theresa May (PA)
Theresa May (PA)

THERESA MAY is to travel to Australia next year to help the Liberal Party in Victoria encourage more women into the state parliament. Following the success of the Conservative Women2Win program which she co-founded in 2005, the former PM will go to Melbourne at the party’s request to lead conversations and provide mentorship, the Australian media reports. Just seven of the Liberal Party’s 31 MPs are women. May may have her work cut out. If she can get there.

Queen’s Brian: Piers has lost it

Brian May (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Brian May (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

QUEEN guitarist Brian May has spoken of his sadness at watching his “past friend” Piers Corbyn “losing his marbles” and allegedly inciting violence over lockdowns. Piers Corbyn was arrested last night on suspicion of encouraging people to burn down MPs’ offices. May, who studied physics with him at Imperial College in the Sixties, said Corbyn had been “a very bright young man”. The guitarist, who got Covid last week, called for people to “get real”.

‘Cancel culture has got worse’

Alan Rusbridger (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Guardian News and Media)
Alan Rusbridger (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Guardian News and Media)

Alan Rusbridger, the former Guardian editor who has returned to the media after six years, tells us the atmosphere around cancel culture “is worse” than when he left the Guardian. Rusbridger has made cancel culture the theme of his first issue of Prospect Magazine. “There is a greater sensitivity around some subjects and feelings, which is not necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “You have to have as your guiding star that some of the things you publish will offend people but that’s not a reason not to publish it.” Rusbridger did, though, warn about the phrase “legal but harmful” which he said was “sneaking into the Online Harms Bill”.“You have to be very careful about that word harmful because people’s idea of what harm I,s is so different,” Rusbridger explained. While some things have changed in his time out as head of an Oxford college, Rusbridger added he was happy to see the traditional journalists’ lunch was still going strong. “On my first day by the time we got to lunchtime I sort of delicately tiptoed out and said ‘does anybody still eat lunch?’…. they all looked very pleased and so we went across to the pub”.

SW1A

DOMINIC Cummings is not Boris Johnson’s biggest fan, it’s true — but the ex-adviser still puts a startling figure on the chances of Johnson being ousted. In a post on his SubStack blog, he muses on “what the new PM, who will take over in 2022 (85 per cent), should do” to deal with structural problems. That’s a big number.

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THE TORIES are on the hunt for a political adviser. It is an “exciting opportunity”, the party say, for someone with “excellent political judgement and strong attention to detail”. Might have been useful before now. The right candidate must also be prepared for “liaising with and supporting” their colleagues. Over cheese and wine?

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