In 2006 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Cultural Authority (TDIC) announced a plan to build a 452,000-square-foot (the larlgest ever) Guggenheim Museum on Saadiyat Island as part of an “international arts hub” that will also include the Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and a Performing Arts Center.
In 2011, variously explained glitches turned what was to be a 2013 unveiling, into one projected into 2015. However, Richard Armstrong, the Guggenheim’s director, informed The Art Newspaper that construction was “going ahead but slower,” and the TDIC said, “construction of the museum has started.”
Now, with a new projected opening date of 2017, construction on the site appears to have remained untouched since 2011.
One has to wonder if construction is being held up due to an ongoing human rights issue that is receiving a lot of press of late.
This past Saturday, Hyperallergic reported on a protest that took place at the museum during its free viewing hours.
“The intervention began at 6:45pm EST with a bugle call and a loud question: “Who is building the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi?’”
The unfortunate answer to that question is, migrant workers who, according to a 2012 Human Rights Watch posting “report indebtedness for recruitment fees paid to obtain their jobs in the UAE (United Arab Emerites),” misleading information, illegal salary deductions, and, instances of overcrowded and unhygienic housing conditions.”
Yet, way back in 2010, The Guggenheim and the TDIC made an official statement promising that they “are both deeply committed to safeguarding the rights and welfare of employees at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum site. “
Could it be that wrangling over the issue of how the UAE treats migrant workers is holding up the works? Terse online statements on the Guggenheim’s site [http://www.guggenheim.org/guggenheim-foundation/news/5743-guggenheim-foundation-statement-on-workers-rights-in-abu-dhabi ] and some more indulgent responses to Hyperallergic lead one to wonder.
Meantime NYU’s department of Social and Cultural Analysis will be holding a meeting to inform the public and discuss the issues, tomorrow, February 26th at 5:15-6:45 PM. It is open to the public.