Category Archives: News

Gulf Labor: “Guggenheim Continues to Treat Worker Abuse as PR Problem”

Gulf Labor: “Recent activities appear focused more on “image management,” including the hiring of the PR firm Brunswick Group to respond to the activities of groups and individuals that raise issues relating to labor conditions on Saadiyat Island. Chairman William L. Mack, and President Jennifer Blei Stockman of the Guggenheim Foundation’s Board of Trustees, as well as those advising the authorities in Abu Dhabi and TDIC, need to recognize that this issue cannot be solved by treating it as a public relations problem.” Continue reading Gulf Labor: “Guggenheim Continues to Treat Worker Abuse as PR Problem”

Guggenheim pressured reporter about “ties to Gulf Labor”

© Molly Crabapple for VICE
© Molly Crabapple for VICE

Art Fag City: “We have now received leaked email correspondence between the Guggenheim and Molly Crabapple while she was working on this story. These emails reveal a shocking unwillingness to provide any statement to journalists who [Guggenheim] speculate[s] might be involved in any pro-worker activist efforts, such as Gulf Labor.

Continue reading Guggenheim pressured reporter about “ties to Gulf Labor”

Ramadan Soaps: The Workers Will Not Be Televised

Ramadan Soaps: The Workers Will Not Be Televised (Creative Time Reports)
By Monira Al Qadiri Kuwait City, Kuwait

During Ramadan, watching TV series—many created specifically for the month of fasting—becomes a social event for millions of Muslims around the world. Here, the Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri manipulates soap operas produced in the Gulf to highlight a missing figure: the migrant worker who cleans up the lavish homes where melodramatic scenes unfold.
Continue reading Ramadan Soaps: The Workers Will Not Be Televised

The International New York Times, May 20, UAE: Was Never Printed

By its local partner Khaleej Times, because of cover story detailing labor abuses during the construction of NYU Abu Dhabi’s campus on Saadiyat Island.


New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told Al Jazeera: “We’ve been in touch with our local printer to express our profound disappointment in this decision, which we understand was based on their objection to this one particular article. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time this has happened in the UAE.”

Newsweek: UAE Halts Printing of New York Times Over Damning NYU Labor Article
Capital New York: U.A.E. printer stops presses on International New York Times
Hyperallergic: Emirates Censors International New York Times Over Saadiyat Labor Report

Observations and Recommendations after Visiting Saadiyat Island and Related Sites, March 2014

Dos and Donts, in a 6-person room for workers on Saadiyat Island

On the invitation of TDIC, master-developers of Saadiyat Island, members of Gulf Labor visited the worker accommodations on Saadiyat Island on March 17, and the Louvre and the Guggenheim sites on March 20, 2014. The below document outlines this group’s main observations, concerns and suggestions. These are also based on: a) visits to related off-island sites in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah; b) interviews with workers both in the UAE and in their home countries; c) discussions with informed local sources and; d) previous visits by members of Gulf Labor. Our recommendations for TDIC Abu Dhabi and the Guggenheim Foundation herein, are made with the sincere intention of cooperating with these institutions on their implementation.

Saadiyat Report Press Release (PDF)

Saadiyat Report 2014  (PDF)

Week 2 . Thomas Hirschhorn. My Guggenheim Dilemma

Gulf Labor

52 Weeks

Banners, 2009
Photocopies and tape, 66.7 x 53.7 cm 
Made at the occasion of the exhibition: Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Guggenheim Museum Rotunda, Guggenheim Museum New York, 2010
Courtesy: the artist
This week’s contribution to Gulf Labor’s 52 Week Campaign is by Thomas Hirschhorn:

Dear Nancy, Dear Richard,
As you know, I am one of those who signed the petition for the boycott of the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi, to put pressure on the museum to do everything it can in order to remedy the labor exploitation on Saadiyat Island, to treat the workers as they deserve to be treated, and to protect their rights as workers. I am happy and willing to do everything I can do in order to achieve this; that’s why I signed the petition for a boycott.

Nevertheless, there is a dilemma. The dilemma – my dilemma – is not about exhibiting, here and now, my work “Cavemanman” in the Guggenheim Bilbao, while at the same time boycotting the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi. That is not my dilemma, and the dilemma is not about some other contradiction observers might point out either.

The dilemma, my dilemma, the real dilemma, is the contradiction between the politics of “good intentions”, “the good conscience”, “the engagement of the artist” – that I should in fact call “pseudo-politics” or “making politics”, for it implies narcissism and selfishness, but which I signed the letter for – and my belief and conviction that Art, as Art, has to keep completely out of any daily political cause in order to maintain its power, its artistic power, its real political power.

By signing the petition for this boycott, I am facing this dilemma, my dilemma. It’s a problem without a solution; it’s a dead-end. On the one side, I really want to do what I can, what I think is in my power, to fight for equality, universality, and justice. But I also know that it is easy to add my signature to this fancy artists’ boycott. Too easy, because I know that when signing a boycott, I have to pay the price for the boycott – myself first – so that the outcome can be a real success.

Art – because it’s art – resists a simplified idealism and a simplified realism, because it refuses aesthetic and political idealism and aesthetic and political realism. And Art -because it’s Art -is never neutral, but Art cannot be neutralized by doing politics. I want to admit that this is the “dead-end” I am in. I have to face it. I have to confront this dilemma and furthermore – as an artist – I even have to assert it as my dilemma.

My hope is that something that makes sense remains.
– My signature for the boycott will make sense if it does change the conditions of the workers for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.
– My signature for the boycott will make sense if the dilemma, the trap, and the temptation of politics allows me to confront the hard core of reality, which is the limit of such a boycott.
– And my signature for the boycott of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will make sense if I have to pay a price for it.
Thank you,
Thomas Hirschhorn, April, 2011

Gulf Labor is a coalition of artists and activists who have been working since 2011 to highlight the coercive recruitment, and deplorable living and working conditions of migrant laborers in Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island (Island of Happiness). Our campaign focuses on the workers who are building the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the Sheikh Zayed National Museum (in collaboration with the British Museum).

“52 Weeks” is a one year campaign starting in October 2013. Artists, writers, and activists from different cities and countries are invited to contribute a work, a text, or action each week that relates to or highlights the unjust living and working conditions of migrant laborers building cultural institutions in Abu Dhabi.

To learn more visit:

For additional information, please email: