Protest Group Lights Up Guggenheim’s Facade with Message for 1 Percent
It was quite the display.
On Wednesday evening, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York hosted a series of projections on its facade. However, the message was not its own.
Earlier this month, the museum suspended talks with the Gulf Labor Artist Coalition, a group that has taken issue with the reported substandard living conditions of the workers planning the construction of the museum’s satellite location in Abu Dhabi.
From a makeshift control center assembled in a van outside the museum, the coalition’s affiliate group Global Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F.) projected a series of messages on the outside of the building. “You broke trust,” one of their complaints declared. “1%,” read another. Later that night, the group wheeled their installation to the Park Avenue residence of William L. Mack, chairman of the Guggenheim’s board.
In a blog post on G.U.L.F.’s website, the group cites this move as a “clear message to the trustees of the Guggenheim Foundation,” stating that the “cynical marriage of ultra-luxury art and ultra-low wages is null and void.”
Among the images the group projected were layered headshots of the museum’s trustees, which included Mack, and former president Jennifer Blei Stockman, among others.
Tina Vaz, a spokesperson for the Guggenheim, told artnet News in a phone interview that, after six years of negotiations, “this latest action by GULF labor is another example of their willingness to attack the Guggenheim for easy publicity versus pursuing a program of thoughtful advocacy.”
She continued, “Their demands are not only beyond the Guggenheim’s direct line of influence but beyond the influence of any single arts institution. We are leveraging our advocacy and our influence to its fullest, but these issues that they are focused on, such as recruitment fees, living wages, and the right to organize, are highly complex and involve many players at the highest levels of the governments—not only in the UAE, but also from countries workers are migrating from. Resolving these issues are beyond the scope of influence of any one institution.”
Vaz emphasized that the group “refuses to acknowledge the progress that has been made” in the past six years, saying, “We truly believe that our presence in the region has made a difference.”
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