Although the news that the Abu Dhabi offshoot of the Guggenheim was alive and well only broke a couple of weeks ago, labor activists are proactively calling for an artists’ boycott until the Guggenheim Foundation addresses their concerns over working conditions in the Gulf state. The Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC), a collective of artists and labor activists, has been agitating for more equitable conditions for migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates since 2010. The group has sparred with the Guggenheim Foundation over its Abu Dhabi location several times, precipitating an occupation of the Guggenheim Museum on May Day in 2015 and the projection of shaming messages onto the building’s spiral in 2016. The GLC brought the Guggenheim Foundation to the negotiating table in 2015, but the foundation's Board of Trustees announced in April of 2016 that it would be walking away from any further discussions with the GLC, citing the group’s “shifting goals.” With progress on the Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi slowed, or even stopped, the furor temporarily died down. Now that the project is actively moving forward again, the GLC has released an open letter to the Guggenheim, and any artists who would work with the museum. “We were inspired by the struggle for worker rights taking place by students and faculty around the construction of the NYU Abu Dhabi campus and asked ourselves what we as art practitioners could do to address potential labor abuses for the Guggenheim Museum’s planned Abu Dhabi branch. “What we asked was, in our eyes, quite modest. Before we agree to participate or include our works in such a collection, can you please ensure that workers are not abused and are paid fairly, that they are not indebted by recruitment fees, that they are given decent housing and living conditions, and that they have the right to address grievances or abuses individually or collectively? We also asked for an independent external monitor to be in place so that we have at least a modicum of objectivity in assuring these conditions are met. Only the last of these requests was met, and not in a satisfactory way.” The full statement can be read here. When pressed for comment, Guggenheim officials only told Hyperallergic the following: “Recent coverage of an updated timeline for the construction and opening of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi was erroneous and was corrected by multiple media outlets several days ago. There is no construction on Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, no contractor has been selected, and no timeline has been set.” It's unclear what exactly the Guggenheim officials are referring to. Their statement said that construction work was not ongoing, but the earlier Euronews interview with Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum, did not say that construction was already happening, but that it would be starting "soon." While that article originally claimed a 2022 opening date, that was quickly amended. The officials did not apparently correct Armstrong's assertion that the Guggenheim Foundation is still actively pursuing the Abu Dhabi project.
Posts tagged with "Guggenheim Abu Dhabi":
After a tumultuous series of ups-and-downs, work on the Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is reportedly picking up steam. According to an interview with Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum, given to Euronews at Abu Dhabi’s annual Culture Summit, the museum could open its doors in the next three-to-four years. The institution’s momentum had seemingly stalled in recent years. Although the project was first announced in 2006 and scheduled to open in 2012, it was repeatedly delayed. The original 2012 opening estimate came and went, as did the revised opening date in 2017, and after an interview with former director of the Guggenheim Foundation, Thomas Krens, it seemed the museum might be dead in the water. The 320,000-square-foot museum, potentially the Guggenheim’s largest outpost, is slated to open on Saadiyat Island, a ground-up cultural district that holds a number of institutions designed by big-name architects. That includes Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi, which itself experienced a number of delays before opening in 2017. “It's a big building, parts of it are quite complex and it should take a little bit of time to put together as it's also quite large,” Armstrong told Euronews. However, he claimed that the project was “on track and on budget,” and that once construction was completed in four years, the Guggenheim Foundation would focus its attention on the fledgling museum over the next 10 years to ensure its success. As for programming, Armstrong envisioned displaying large-scale works from all over the world, mainly contemporary pieces from 1965 and onwards. That includes carving out space for work by younger, lesser-known artists, with "overscaled" pieces from artists such as James Turrell or Ernesto Neto being placed in the building’s upper levels. No exact opening date or new budget was given. AN has reached out to Gehry Partners for comment and will update this story accordingly.
In a podcast posted on March 21, former Director of the Guggenheim Foundation, Thomas Krens, cast doubt on the near-future hopes of building the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a project he helped set into motion in 2006. The museum, designed by Frank Gehry, was originally scheduled to open in 2012 and would be the largest branch of the Guggenheim to date. The project was one of several cultural institutions designed by the likes of Foster and Partners, Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, and Tadao Ando as part of a larger plan for Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. Construction of the Guggenheim has been delayed several times and, as of 2017, only Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi is near completion. In his podcast interview with In Other Words, produced by the art advisory firm Art Agency Partners, Krens states that he believes these delays are intentional to help the city gauge the reaction of locals to the new development. Because the plans for this new cultural hub were drawn up in more “naïve” times, Krens thinks this type of development is just something that can’t happen in the current climate. “The world financial crisis and the Arab Spring has changed the equation radically,” said Krens in the interview. “It may not be such a good idea these days to have an American museum…with a Jewish name in a country [that doesn’t recognize Israel] in such a prominent location, at such a big scale.” The potential for the museum to be seen as a target for terrorism was a fear that the Guggenheim team addressed from the beginning of the project, and something Krens views as more worrisome now. “If I were them [Abu Dhabi local authorities], I would say we’re not abandoning our mission… to building these institutions, but we don’t need all five of them up and running at the same time,” said Krens in the interview. He also alludes that perhaps, in the future, there may be a better opportunity for the development and for further “cooperation and coordination.” For now, it seems the project is still on hold, although not without hope. In a statement to The Art Newspaper, a representative from the Guggenheim reiterated their support for the project and their continued work to make it happen: “The Guggenheim Foundation remains committed to the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and its transformative potential as a catalyst for exchange and for expanding the narratives of art history.” To find more information about the Saadiyat Island development, you can visit their website here. UPDATE 4/4/2017: The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority has provided this comment:
Abu Dhabi remains committed to developing an innovative cultural destination on Saadiyat Island for Abu Dhabi's residents and visitors. Louvre Abu Dhabi is set to open this year, and together with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, we are unquestionably progressing with the development of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The programme and collection of the Museum have been progressing for the past years and we have recently launched The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence, the second exhibition of artworks from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection. Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority is continuing the development of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi's curatorial narrative, collection and educational outreach with the expertise of the curatorial team to bring this museum to life.
Up-and-coming architect Frank Gehry recently sat down with the New York Times to discuss his Guggenheim museum under construction on Saadiyat Island near Abu Dhabi. The eccentric or idiosyncratic or whimsical structure totals 450,000 square feet, making it 12 times larger than the Guggenheim in New York. The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is defined by multiple cones that Gehry says were influenced by teepees because of how they remove hot air. The design is also supposed to evoke the domes of mosques around the Middle East. Although that's a bit harder to discern. On Saadiyat Island, Gehry's museum will be joined by other lavish projects from Zaha Hadid, Rafael Viñoly, Tadao Ando, and Jean Nouvel. These architects, and their clients, have faced scrutiny for the notoriously bad labor conditions in the region. But back in September, Gehry addressed these concerns in an interview with Architectural Record. In a statement, the architect's firm said, “Gehry Partners has been engaged in a substantial and on-going dialogue over many years now that has involved government, the construction industry, architects, project, sponsors and NGOs." Record added, "Gehry may be the first prominent architect to take steps towards labor reform on Saadiyat Island." If you like, give the video a look, but be warned there's a lot of self congratulations and opining on world affairs.
Nearly 50 activists recently took over the Guggenheim’s spiraling balconies to protest the museum’s planned branch in Abu Dhabi. The protesters, who are affiliated with Gulf Labor and Occupy Museums, dropped pamphlets, rolled out banners, and hung a manifesto to criticize Abu Dhabi’s poor record on workers’ rights. Gothamist reported that the activists chanted, “The Guggenheim should not be built on the backs of abused workers. The Guggenheim should listen to the voices of migrant workers. Is this the future of art?” The Frank Gehry–designed museum will rise off the coast of Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island, near new works by Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, and Norman Foster. In response to the protest, Guggenheim Director Richard Armstrong said in a statement, “The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is engaged in ongoing, serious discussions with our most senior colleagues in Abu Dhabi regarding the issues of workers’ rights. As global citizens, we share the concerns about human rights and fair labor practices and continue to be committed to making progress on these issues.” Zaha Hadid kicked up further criticism for her insensitive-seeming remarks in the Guardian, where she dismissed responsibility for worker safety on a stadium construction site in Qatar: "I have nothing to do with the workers. I think that's an issue the government—if there's a problem—should pick up. Hopefully, these things will be resolved." She previously sparked criticism for her comments on building under dictators in Syria.