Artistic differences...

17 Mar 2011

Artists protest at Guggenheim Museum Abu Dhabi due to poor labour conditions

In a year that will see the opening of the first projects on Saadiyat Island, a $27bn luxury resort in Abu Dhabi, The New York Times is reporting that a group of more than 130 artists, some prominent, are expected to boycott the construction of one of the Island’s flagship projects, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, unless labour conditions at the site improve.

At issue are the working conditions for low-skilled workers which the group says borders on abuse. Such conditions include the failure of contractors to repay recruitment fees - which can lead to crippling debt to labourers - hazardous working conditions and the arbitrary withholding of wages.

“While such problems are not uncommon in a region where most low-skilled jobs are performed by foreign workers who have few legal rights”, said the Times, “the boycott comes at a ‘tricky time’ for the Guggenheim Foundation and Museum in New York” which intends to fill its $800m outpost, designed by Frank Gehry, largely with contemporary Middle Eastern art, some of which was created by the very artists protesting its construction practices.

The news comes amidst other news today that Saadiyat Island will welcome its first visitors by years end. In October, the (US $272m) Park Hyatt will open its doors followed by the opening of the vast St Regis resort a month later. The nearby Monte Carlo Beach Club will open in the second quarter of this year. Tourism this year is expected to account for 11.l% of the city’s non-oil economy.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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