By Deb A.
The tides are turning against a major donor in the art world. Over the last week, the Tate Modern, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Guggenheim all announced that they would no longer be accepting donations from the Sackler family.
The Sacklers earned themselves a name in the art world by donating millions upon millions of dollars to museums and galleries. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre have Sackler Wings, the British Museum has Raymond and Beverly Sackler Rooms, and the group of Tate galleries had already accepted over $5 million from the family before their recent announcement.
The problem lies in the source of the Sackler family's billions: Their company, Purdue Pharma, developed and aggressively marketed OxyContin while hiding its addictive properties, making the Sacklers almost single-handedly responsible for North America's opioid crisis.
Photographer Nan Goldin, who herself became addicted to painkillers after being prescribed OxyContin, established Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (PAIN) to protest the Sacklers's involvement in the arts and insist that they fund rehab programmes and overdose antidotes instead of making prestigious donations. She led demonstrations at the Met and the Guggenheim, and threatened to withdraw from an exhibition of her work at the National Portrait Gallery if it accepted a million-pound donation from the Sacklers. The gallery turned the money down.
The Sacklers are far from being the only ethically problematic patrons of the arts, and it is unlikely that museums and galleries around the world, especially those with long histories, will be able to extricate themselves completely from blood money and ill-gotten gains. But this is no reason to avoid taking a stand; galleries must make it clear that they will no longer accept money that was earned by putting lives at risk.
By Deb A.
William Stanley Merwin died on March 15, 2019. He was 91. Merwin was a poet whose life and works lend themselves well to elegant variation. He was a conservationist—not only in his poetry, which often bemoaned the destruction of the natural world, but also in his personal life; he and his wife restored 19 acres of land in Hawaii ("His poems, like that forest, are a kind of time preserve," noted Dan Chiasson in the New Yorker) and founded the Merwin Conservancy. He was a literary translator who took up the practice on the advice of Ezra Pound as a way of improving his own writing. He was a practising Buddhist and an anti-war activist; he was a conscientious objector in World War II, and he rejected his 1971 Pulitzer Prize (for The Carrier of Ladders), requesting that the prize money be donated to a peace activist and the draft resistance movement. As well as being a Pulitzer Prize winner (twice: He also won in 2009 for The Shadow of Sirius), he was a U.S. Poet Laureate and the recipient of nearly every other award available to American poets. Merwin was a prolific writer, publishing over 20 books of poetry—which, in his signature style, offer little in the way of punctuation—and nearly as many books of translation, as well as several plays, memoirs, and other books. His last original collection of poems, Garden Time, was published in 2016, 64 years after his first, A Mask for Janus (1952).
For the Anniversary of My Death
By W. S. Merwin (The Second Four Books of Poems, 1993)
Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Like the beam of a lightless star
Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
By Deb A.
"Every black person deserves to see themselves this way": Mikael Owunna's Infinite Essence photography project is his reaction to the barrage of images of dying or dead black bodies. It is both poignant and incredibly beautiful, and a thorough look at his website and social media, along with this interview with NPR, is well worth your while.
Patrick Heide Contemporary Art in London is showing a group exhibition focused on Brexit entitled Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
It didn't take long for the first comic depicting U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (as an establishment-fighting hero) to emerge. (Devil's Due Comics)
The New York Times marked Black History Month by telling the stories of some of the notable black men and women who did not receive obituaries when they died. The project is called Overlooked, and its last entry of the year is a look at graffiti artist Dondi.
If it's too cold to get outside, at least there's this: The Outdoor Photographer of the Year winners for 2018.
It's somehow hard to imagine a list like this that didn't include Margaret Atwood (spoiler alert: This one does): CBC's "10 Canadian books coming out in March we can't wait to read."
Literary, art and photography publications, and publisher of fine books. For current book titles, or for more information on our services, visit us online:
Copyright © Agave Magazine + Press, 2019