Gulf Labor Responds to Guggenheim Breaking off Negotiations

GADcrossedPress release (PDF) here: 
http://gulflabor.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Gulf_Labor_Press_Release_Apr18.pdf

Timeline (PDF):
http://gulflabor.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Gulf_Labor_Timeline_April18.pdf

Guggenheim Breaks Off Negotiations with Gulf Labor

On April 13, 2016, Guggenheim Board of Trustees unilaterally severed negotiations with the Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC). In a conference call, the Guggenheim1 informed GLC that they will no longer meet with us, nor listen to our proposals about the living and working conditions of the workers who are and will be building museums in Abu Dhabi.

On April 17, 2016, Richard Armstrong, Director of the Guggenheim Museum, sent an email to artists, art critics, curators, and museum directors all over the world describing GLC as a group that “continues to shift its demands,” is “continuing to spread mistruths,” and uses “deliberate falsehoods”.2 He insisted that no work had begun on the Abu Dhabi site, a recurring claim that GLC has already challenged.3
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  1. Represented by Juan Ignacia Vidarte (Deputy Director and Chief Officer for Global Strategies), Tina Vaz (Deputy Director, Global Communications), and Hanan Sayyed Worrell (Guggenheim senior representative in Abu Dhabi). []
  2. See http://hyperallergic.com/291594/guggenheim-breaks-off-negotiations-with-gulf-labor-over-migrant-rights []
  3. http://gulflabor.org/2015/construction-of-the-guggenheim-abu-dhabi-has-not-yet-begun-a-response []

The Guardian on the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and finances on Saadiyat

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The Guardian has a long piece today on the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Saadiyat Island’s developments.

The large financial deals are recapped in the article, as below:

“In 2007, Abu Dhabi signed a deal with French officials worth over £663m to buy the use of the Louvre’s name, to construct the Jean Nouvel-designed building that will house the art, and to facilitate special exhibitions and cultural loans from French institutions. The museum is scheduled to open next year. The Louvre branding itself is worth over half the value of the total: £344m for a period of 30 years.

A similarly gargantuan sum was promised to the Guggenheim, which will open its outpost in Abu Dhabi in 2017 or later (the project has been much delayed). Curators have been granted a £400m budget for new acquisitions, while the museum designed by Frank Gehry – a medieval jumble of cones and impossible angles – will cost £530m to build.”

Note that these figures are in UK Pounds.

Our financial proposals to the Guggenheim include a better and living wage for workers ( 25 percent above the 250 USD per month average) and a one time debt relief fund of USD 2,000 per worker, which assuming 7,500 workers is 15 million USD.  That’s just about 1 percent of the combined building and acquisitions budget.

These demands are detailed below (from a letter to the Guggenheim dated March 6, 2015):

Gulf Labor proposes that:

1. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi create a Debt Settlement Fund (DSF) to compensate every worker who is building its museum on Saadiyat Island an additional $2,000 on top of wages earned (or, assuming an aggregate workforce of 7500—as in the case of the Louvre — around $15 million in additional total payments to workers). The DSF will address one of the most intractable labor problems in the UAE: recruitment debt. Independent investigators have established that the average recruitment debt burden per worker is $2000. (1)

2. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi ensures a fair wage for all workers employed on its construction site. Recent scholarly analysis of the UAE migrant labor market has demonstrated that wages are depressed by at least 25% relative to previous levels of compensation. (2) Moreover, our own research has found great disparities among workers, based on the place of origin, caste and community and terms of contract, even for the same work. We will work with the museum to establish a living wage for all workers on the site. This living wage will compensate both for the 25% wage depression and for the disparities cited above.

3. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will work to guarantee workers have the freedom to associateand the right to collectively address grievances. This will prevent the growing cycle of intimidation and violence, imprisonment and deportation that has taken place, especially since 2013.

 

An intervention at the Biennale: G.U.L.F and Gulf Labor at Venice

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An intervention at the Biennale: G.U.L.F and Gulf Labor at Venice. 

August 2, 2015.

1330 hrs.
The banner that marks the participation of the Gulf Labor Coalition at the 56th Venice Biennale in the Arsenale receives an intervention.

1500-1645 hrs.
The migration panel in the Arena reframes the discussion around migrant labor in the UAE, and on Saadiyat island.
http://www.labiennale.org/en/art/news/29-07c.html

16:45 hrs.
G.U.L.F members read a Statement on Palestine in the Arena.

17:00 hrs.
A PUBLIC MEETING is called for at the Israeli Pavilion; the pavilion is occupied

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Gulf Labor at the 56th Venice Biennale

Venice Biennale 2015

Gulf Labor Coalition is presenting three events at the Biennial including 1) a program of informational panels that will focus on our ongoing research into the nexus of art+labor+capital as it is congealing in Abu Dhabi and the UAE at the Arena, 2) a celebratory pageant  performance at S.a.L.E.-Docks and 3) the launch of our new book also at S.a.L.E.-Docks in only a few weeks. The program is as below:

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A Letter to the Louvre

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Image: Saadiyat Island, courtesy Gulf Labor

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is addressed in several recent letters from the international art community to UAE-based institutions.  In an attempt to establish direct contact,  get a response from the Louvre on a growing list of points of worry, and extend our concerns and solidarities regarding ongoing activity on Saadiyat Island to France,  Gulf Labor sends the below open letter to the Louvre.

__________ (In French, and English below)
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