What’s the llatest tactic employed by Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction (GULF), the organization protesting dangerous conditions at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi construction site on Saadiyat Island? Subterfuge, in the form of a fake press release announcing a “Sustainable Design Competition for Abu Dhabi Branch.”
The purported competition aims to replace the museum’s Frank Gehry design with a plan that promotes fair labor and ecologically sustainable practices. The Internet campaign follows demonstrations at the Guggenheim’s New York branch from 40 protesters and the Occupy Wall Street Illuminator.
While a link in the release redirects to a convincing looking mock-up of the Guggenheim homepage, the message urges interested parties to send any inquiries to the museum’s real e-mail address, [email protected]
The fake museum website, globalguggenheim.org, has imported almost all of the real guggenheim.org content, with a handful of important exceptions. Two new main features have been added: the aforementioned design competition, and “Gulf Labor: 52 Weeks,” which links to the protesters’ homepage.
Additionally, the Guggenheim’s “Long Awaited Tribute” to Frank Lloyd Wright now redirects to Radical Philosophy‘s obituary describing artist and critic Allan Sekula as “one of the outstanding Marxist intellectuals of his generation.” The description of the institution’s current Italian Futurism exhibition equates the movement with gentrification, and offers the following Karl Marx quote:
“Improvements” of towns, accompanying the increase of wealth, by the demolition of badly built quarters, the erection of palaces for banks, warehouses, etc., the widening of streets for business traffic, for the carriages of luxury, and for the introduction of tramways, etc., drive away the poor into even worse and more crowded hiding places.
Perhaps most damningly, the link for purchasing tickets has a couple of new headings: “Rethink” or “Hack” your visit, and redirects to occupymuseums.org.
In addition to globalguggenheim.net, GULF has also created a blog at globalguggenheim.com that looks like it will host design submissions.
The entire Global Guggenheim e-mail calling for submissions reads as follows:
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In response to overwhelming international concern about human and labor rights violations in the construction of the new cultural district of Saadiyat Island, the Guggenheim Museum has decided to rethink the design for its new branch in Abu Dhabi. While the original design proposed by Frank Gehry is remarkable in conceptual and technical terms, the Guggenheim has recognized that the Abu Dhabi site affords a unique opportunity to fundamentally reimagine the future of the twenty-first century global museum. In partnership with with the Tourism and Development Investment Company (TDIC) of the United Arab Emirates, we jointly announce an open public design competition for the Abu Dhabi branch of the Guggenheim informed by the principles of sustainability, accountability, and social justice. Please visit www.globalguggenheim.org.
As of today, we invite the international public to participate in the first of two phases. Phase I aims to create an inventory of design concepts and models for this museum. In Phase II we will refine the models into plans for the new Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi. Projects should creatively address the areas where the first design fell short, such as fair labor, ecological sustainability, and broad accessibility across economic classes. Submissions should seek to tackle the inherent linkages between economic, gender, and racial inequality, and spaces should be imagined that promote the availability of relevant artistic practices to the widest range of audiences. As part of our effort to publicize the competition, we are launching the Twitter hashtag #futureguggenheim.
The Guggenheim has a rich history of leadership in rethinking the museum’s interface with the public sphere. The BMW Guggenheim lab (2011-2014) was at the forefront of addressing problems in contemporary urban life through free programs, projects and public discourse. This competition continues our exploration of how art and architecture can play a crucial role in confronting the most pressing economic and ecological challenges of our time.
Submissions are encouraged from all sources—including but not limited to students, architects, workers, non-workers, artists, and designers. We have set up a site that allows users to independently upload images and text of their design concepts by email on the competition website. Please submit designs here. The concepts will be aggregated and displayed on a transparent, public platform.
All submissions from Phase I will constitute dimensions of the future Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi. In Phase II, the most compelling will be further developed into a single proposal and model. We are working closely with TDIC and other partners to ensure that the construction of the museum adheres to the spirit and letter of new ethical labor guidelines.
Competition entries can submitted immediately, commencing on Thursday March 27th 2014 until June 28th, 2014. For Phase I, please submit designs here.
About the Global Guggenheim Foundation
The Global Guggenheim Foundation is dedicated to promoting exploration of new ideas, experimentation, and supporting forward-thinking collective spaces and art practices. Looking to the future, the Global Guggenheim Foundation will continue to forge international collaborations that harness contemporary art, architecture, and design to confront challenges of economic, racial, and gender inequality.