The billionaire Sackler family is known for donating millions of dollars to museums and cultural institutions around the world. The Mariah App, however, calls attention to some members of the family and their ownership of Purdue Pharma, which they are relinquishing under a bankruptcy proposal. The pharmaceutical company made and marketed the prescription painkiller OxyContin.
Mariah Lotti was addicted to opioids and died of an overdose in 2011. She was 19.
Artists Adam DelMarcelle and Heather Snyder Quinn created the app as part of what they call a “virtual hacking of space with memorials to the countless lost hidden in plain sight.”
The artists didn’t actually hack the Met, but the Met wasn’t involved with the app, which superimposes Lotti’s story, and those of other people who died of opioid abuse, over the artifacts in the Met’s Sackler Wing. When users point their phone camera at different objects, information about some of the Sacklers, opioid abuse and its victims are revealed.
In 2019, the Met announced it would stop accepting gifts from the philanthropist Sacklers, and in recent years some other institutions have dropped their name. DelMarcelle tells Hyperallergic’s Hakim Bishara that doesn’t go far enough.
“Stripping the Sackler name off the wall would mean something only if it’s replaced with the name of a person who died of an overdose,” he said. “That’s what we did with the app.”
According to the settlement, some family members demanded Purdue aggressively market OxyContin, leading to, in the words of the Justice Department, uses that were “unsafe, ineffective, and medically unnecessary, and that often led to abuse.”
To read Bishara’s interview with the artists and learn more about their virtual takeover, visit bit.ly/opioidapp.