Demonstrators at Guggenheim Protest Labor Abuse in Abu Dhabi
New York’s Guggenheim Museum was the scene of protest at approximately 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 5, as demonstrators unfurled from one of the upper ramps a 30-foot-long white banner emblazoned with the words “Stop Labor Abuse” and “Countdown to Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.”
The action lasted about five minutes before security guards confiscated the banner and the protesters fled the building. No arrests were made. As reported in the The New York Times and elsewhere, the action, which surprised viewers attending the museum’s current show “Zero: Countdown to Tomorrow, 1950s–60s,” was enacted by two members of the protest group Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F.).
The group aims to bring attention to the flagrant labor abuse and gross financial inequity it has found in the oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates, where the Guggenheim plans to open a satellite museum in 2017. Work on the project began in 2011.
The labor disputes center on the workers’ conditions on Saadiyat Island, a haven for the ultra-wealthy, and the location of the future Guggenheim, joining the Louvre and New York University, which have already constructed venues on the site. Much of the labor force there is made up of foreign migrant workers, who are forced to put in long hours for relatively minuscule compensation, averaging about $200 per month. So far, Guggenheim officials have remained mum on the subject, despite reports last month that they planned to address the issues formally. Meanwhile, G.U.L.F. plans further protests, including one for this evening (Thursday, November 6), timed to coincide with a black tie fund-raising dinner to be held at the museum.
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