Gulf Labor Letter to Guggenheim (June 2014)

To the Director, Deputy Director, Abu Dhabi Project Manager, and Abu Dhabi Curator of the Guggenheim Museum:

It was good to meet together last Friday. As we emphasized in the meeting, now that the construction tenders have gone out, the situation of the workers absolutely must be prioritized immediately, or the Guggenheim will find itself in the same position as NYU.

The NYU Abu Dhabi findings first released in our own report have now been corroborated by a front page investigative report in the New York Times, which has in turn set off further investigations by other media outlets and protests on the home campus. The true scandal of NYU Abu Dhabi, however, is not the damage caused to NYU’s public reputation, but the fact that thousands of workers have spent years building a branch of that university for exploitative wages and in poor living conditions, and ended up still indebted. If the Guggenheim is truly committed to avoiding this outcome, we feel that more urgent actions need to be taken.

Pursuant to our conversation, we believe a joint meeting with the Guggenheim and representatives from the ILO could be productive. A part of our group is willing to think through alternatives to the ILO’s role in the process of monitoring labor safety and standards, should the diplomatic and other channels that you are pursuing fail to lead to intervention in time for the January deadline for construction.  Will the Guggenheim be setting up this meeting with the ILO?

We left the meeting last week encouraged by the Guggenheim’s support of the recommendations we outlined in our March 2014 Report.  Given our respective agreement about these recommendations, we would propose a joint letter that we can send to TDIC and the UAE Ministry of Labor urging them to support and implement our outlined recommendations.  Is this something the Guggenheim will commit to?

Moreover, and in the spirit of the Guggenheim’s call for a broader coalition of partners, we are eager to draft a joint letter (supporting the recommendations outlined in our report) that we can subsequently send to the Agence France Museums, the British Museum, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, and Norman Foster.  Is the Guggenheim willing to join such an effort?

The recent news about the Guggenheim’s upcoming exhibition in Abu Dhabi, Seeing Through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection, seems to many of our group as further indication that it is business as usual down there. Is Gulf Labor simply a public relations problem for the Guggenheim, as were the students and faculty who struggled at NYU? Or, is there a real exigency to not only recognize the concerns we have shared since 2010, but also to act upon them?

We hope the latter.


Gulf Labor

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