The Future of Patronage

How to move forward when the money runs out

by Madeline DeFilippis | 23 November 2020

Karsten Moran for the New York Times


The United States Justice Department recently announced a settlement with Purdue Pharma, the US-based company which produces the drug OxyContin. The settlement states that Purdue Pharma claims criminal responsibility for the marketing of its drug which has been linked to widespread over-prescribing and subsequently abuse and spread of what has become known as the ‘Opioid Crisis’. The Sackler family owns and operates Purdue Pharma, and have been avid supporters of the arts since the mid-twentieth century. The settlement requires Purdue Pharma, which has been sued by over 2000 U.S. cities, to pay $8.3 billion in penalties. It is hoped that this settlement will lead to individual settlements of lawsuits by families across the country who lost livelihoods and loved ones to drug abuse and drug overdose. The Sackler family has supported institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), the Guggenheim (NY), the Tate Gallery group (London), and the National Portrait Gallery (London), and a member of the Sackler family has established the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. They are not alone; uber-rich families and individuals have always funded the arts. The tradition of patronage can be traced back to ancient times, but perhaps the most famous early modern patrons were the likes of Madame de Pompadour, the official chief court mistress of Louis XV in the eighteenth century. Kings and Queens, nobility and rich merchants commissioned p