Sharjah Biennial Artists Issue Open Letter Supporting Gulf Labor Artists Banned from UAE

Gulf Labor Artists Coalition
Photo: courtesy Gulf Labor Artists Coalition

Forty-four of the 55 artists taking part in the 12th Sharjah Biennial have signed an open letter in support of artists and Gulf Labor Artist Coalition members Walid Raad and Ashok Sukumaran, who were recently denied entry to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (see Walid Raad Third Gulf Labor Artist Who’s Been Refused Entry to the UAE).

Signatories include Abraham Cruzvillegas, Danh Vo, Damián Ortega, Eric Baudelaire, Gary Simmons, Haegue Yang, Hassan Khan, Leonor Antunes, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Rodney McMillian, Ruanne Abou-Rahme, and Uriel Barthélémi.

“We feel that the work done by the Gulf Labor Artist Coalition is important and that transparency and dialog are essential to ensure that globalised cultural institutions like the Guggenheim, the Louvre, and NYU are expanding responsibly, sustainably and without labor exploitation,” the letter reads.

In the letter, addressed to a slew of institutions including the Guggenheim, the Louvre, and NYU, signatories urge authorities in the UAE to lift entry restrictions for Raad and Sukumaran.

Sukumaran was repeatedly denied a visa for “security reasons,” while Raad was turned away at the border when trying to enter the UAE to attend the March Meetings in May, also for “security reasons.” The letter cites Raad and Sukumaran as long time members of the creative community in UAE and also states that they believe the real reason behind the artists being turned away at the border was their relationship to Gulf Labor (see Artist Sneaks Into Future Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Site to Interview Workers and NYU Professor Andrew Ross Banned From UAE for Investigating Abu Dhabi Labor Conditions).

The Gulf Labor Artist Coalition has been attracting much global support following a series of protests in New York and in Venice (see Gulf Labor Stages Protest at Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and Gulf Labor Protest Shuts Down New York Guggenheim Museum).

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