• Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Protests

    Date posted: March 20, 2011 Author: jolanta
    A group of more than 130 artists, including many prominent figures in the Middle Eastern art world, says it will boycott the $800 million Guggenheim museum being built in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, unless conditions for the foreign laborers at the site are improved, Nicolai Ouroussoff reports for the New York Times.

    The new Guggenheim, designed by Frank Gehry, is one of the highest-profile construction projects in the Middle East. It is to be the centerpiece of a sprawling development called Saadiyat Island that includes a half-billion-dollar branch of the Louvre Museum designed by Jean Nouvel, a national museum designed by Norman Foster, luxury resorts, golf clubs, marinas, and acres of private villas.

    The artists’ group says it is responding to a range of abuses that have been reported on the island, including the failure of contractors to repay recruitment fees—which can lead to crippling debt for laborers—hazardous working conditions, and the arbitrary withholding of wages. Such problems are not uncommon in a region where almost all low-skilled jobs are performed by foreign workers with few legal rights.

    “Artists should not be asked to exhibit their work in buildings built on the backs of exploited workers,” Walid Raad, a Lebanese-born New York–based artist who is one of the boycott’s organizers, said in a statement. “Those working with bricks and mortar deserve the same kind of respect as those working with cameras and brushes.”

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