The term “toxic philanthropy” has once again surfaced as several artists made a show of support to activists calling for the resignation of “Warren Kanders”. Eight artists whose works are on exhibit or supposed to have gone on exhibit at the ongoing Whitney Biennial, withdrew their artwork.
They did so after learning that the reason why Warren Kanders is being asked to resign from the museum board, is because he made his fortune by being chief executive to the tear gas maker Safariland. The brand of tear gas being used on refugees seeking asylum in different borders, including those entering the U.S. Mexico Border.
They are also called “philanthrocapitalists” who take form as wealthy do-gooders claiming to change the world and speak reverently of global poverty, but rarely examine how their business is contributing to poverty and inequality.
Another Example of Toxic Philanthropy: Sackler Family of Purdue Pharma
The Sackler family name linked to the Sackler Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has recently been taken down in several museums and other institutions. This was after art activists launched month-long protests over the acceptance of dirty money coming from toxic philanthropists as funding support for galleries.
The protest actions came about when word spread out that the Sackler family is the owner of Pharma Purdue, manufacturer of the addictive painkiller OxyContin. The problem with OxyContin was that Purdue Pharma did not disclose the addictive ingredient, which spurred the so-called opioid crisis. Doctors prescribed OxyContin as painkillers to hundred of patients, many of whom become drug addicts and at worse, died.
Since the Sackler family is well-known as philanthropists and benefactors of arts, lawyers were able to keep the family name from being dragged to court, and by entering into out-of-court settlements.