Nan Goldin is on something of a roll. Last week the Ballad of Sexual Dependency photographer staged a pair of protests at two major New York galleries, and now she suggested that she’s more than prepared to boycott London’s National Portrait Gallery in the near future.
This is no idle threat issued by a photographer not shy of provocation: the Observer reports that Nan has, in fact, been offered a prestigious retrospective exhibition by the NPG.
The issue? Money. Specifically, money donated to various galleries and institutions around the world by the Sackler family, including the National Portrait Gallery. The family’s fortune is based in part from owning the pharmaceutical company which produces the opioid, OxyContin.
Goldin was prescribed the drug — which is currently playing a starring role in the opioid crisis that is ravaging parts of America — in 2014 after she contracted tendonitis in a wrist.
News broke of the Sackler’s £1m donation to the National Portrait in March 2018. The British newspaper states that Nan Goldin spoke with the NPG’s director Nicholas Cullinan over the phone last week, ostensibly to discuss whether the financial “gift” proffered by the philanthropic family would be accepted by the gallery.
The Observer reports Goldin as saying: “I really feel it’s so important museums listen to their artists, rather than their philanthropists,” adding, “what is the museum for? Art is transcendent and that makes it very, very dirty if they take the money; it’s failing the whole idea of a museum as a place to show art.”
The photographer was assured that the donation in question was undergoing an internal review, with a decision likely to be made by March of this year.