US and UK museums and galleries face protests over ethics of philanthropy gifts

Major art galleries and museums in the UK and US are being challenged to consider the ethics of their gift acceptance policies following a wave of protests.

In the UK, 350 protesters occupied the British Museum to protest the Museum’s sponsorship relationship, and particularly its sponsorship of its I am Ashurbanipal exhibition which features Ottoman artifacts removed from modern day Iraq. Campaigner Yasmin Younis is reported as saying: “When I saw there would be a special exhibition on my culture and my history I was ecstatic … but finding out the sponsor was BP was a massive slap in the face. These are the very same sponsors who advocated for the war which destroyed my homeland and slaughtered my people all in the name of oil.” ¹

Meanwhile in New York, the Guggenheim and Metropolitan Art Museum were both targeted by protests against their policies of accepting funding from the Sackler Family whose money comes from the pharmaceutical manufacture of the drug Oxycontin a product which is currently the subject of lawsuits and public outrage as a significant contributor to the US ‘Opioid crisis’. ²

The Met has instigated a review of its gift acceptance policy and promised to report back.