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Op-Ed in the Walker Arts Magazine

Image: Workers camp on Saadiyat Island in 2011, Hans Haacke.

Gulf Labor members Naeem Mohaiemen (text) and Hans Haacke (photos) contribute an “Artists Op-Ed” to the Walker Art Centre’s Magazine.
Defiance is welcomed when it is sanctioned and staged as art. Drill a crater in the floor, flood a gallery, embalm an animal, smash an object, stage a pitiful death—critics hail these gestures as having the power to “shape worlds.” But when artists sit down at a conference table with museum administrators and read from a list of demands for labor rights, this work—involving conversation, negotiation, research, protest—suddenly becomes illegible to the same museum. The artists whose projects were previously praised as stretching boundaries are now tagged as maverick spoilers.”

You can read the entire piece here:
http://www.walkerart.org/magazine/gulf-labor-hans-haacke-naeem-mohaiemen

Helsinki say NO to Guggenheim Helsinki

The Helsinki City Council has voted against the proposed Guggenheim by 53 to 32 votes, ending a 4-year debate and campaign. Among those involved in the campaign were Checkpoint Helsinki, which floated the Next Helsinki  alternative competition in association with G.U.L.F., and who will release their book the “The Helsinki Effect – Public Alternatives to Guggenheim Model of Culture Development” in Helsinki this month. 
And the BWI, whose statement on the Guggenheim Helsinki is here.
Press coverage:
New York Times
The Guardian

Artists in Guggenheim “Storm” show urge return to negotiations

The artists listed below have work included in the Guggenheim Museum’s collection and in the UBS MAP exhibition: But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa. We express our disappointment over the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation’s recent decision to end dialogue with the Gulf Labor Coalition, concerning labor practices in the construction of their Abu Dhabi Museum. As artists connected in various ways to this region, we believe in new institutions as cultural forces; we support their creation but also believe they can be catalysts for greater social change. We hope that the Guggenheim remains committed to innovation on both a representational as well as a structural level. Furthermore, we believe that dialogue is the most productive way forward for all parties involved. This exhibition is one form of dialogue and we regret that it opens amidst the current development in the exchange between the museum and GLC. We urge the museum to reconsider and reverse its decision to terminate its dialogue with GLC and affiliated NGOs.

Abbas Akhavan
Kader Attia
Ali Cherri
Mariam Ghani
Joana Hadjithomas
Iman Issa
Khalil Joreige
Hassan Khan
Ahmad Mater
Zineb Sedira

Statement from Bidoun

“Bidoun Projects supports the ongoing work of the Gulf Labor Coalition, a transnational group of artists, writers, and scholars who for six years have worked to draw attention to the conditions under which the future Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will be built, and to the precarious status of migrant workers in the region. 

Last week, after years of dialogue, the Guggenheim announced that it would no longer engage in direct discussions with the coalition. While the GLC has not asked Bidoun to withdraw our film program at this time, we trust that talks between the Guggenheim and the coalition will be resumed forthwith and that the welfare of the workers building the museum in Abu Dhabi will be guaranteed.”

- issued as part of the announcement of the film and video program, curated by Bidoun Projects, accompanying the upcoming exhibition But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa at the Guggenheim New York.

Gulf Labor Responds to Guggenheim Breaking off Negotiations

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

Timeline (PDF):
https://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
Continue reading Gulf Labor Responds to Guggenheim Breaking off Negotiations

  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. https://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

louvrebirth

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.

 

A Letter to the Louvre

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)
Continue reading A Letter to the Louvre