Whitney Gives Construction Workers Free Admission for a Year

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The exterior of the new Whitney Museum building. Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

As New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art prepares to unveil its new home at the base of the Highline, construction workers on the project have been promised a year’s worth of free admission as thanks for their work. Though building a museum may have its perks in New York, the experience is drastically different for workers in Abu Dhabi. According to a New York Times report, working conditions at the site of the planned New York University campus on Saadiyat Island are in clear violation of fair labor standards.

Such offenses as overcrowded and unclean living quarters, lack of pay, long hours, recruitment debts, violent responses to attempted union organization, passport withholding, and deportation are detailed in the Times piece. The article lends credence to the recent protests of the planned Abu Dhabi Guggenheim branch led by the Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction (GULF).

The Guggenheim has adamantly denied that it has helped perpetuate the inhumane labor conditions that characterize the region’s building projects, saying:

It is important to clarify that the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is not currently under construction, despite erroneous claims by certain protesters. The building foundations and pilings were completed in 2011. While in Abu Dhabi in mid-March 2014, our director revisited the workers village to ensure that living conditions for workers who will work on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will set new and respected standards for workers engaged in building other projects on Saadiyat Island.

In regards to the Whitney’s generous offer to its construction workers, first mentioned during a recent hardhat tour of the new space (see artnet News report), Hyperallergic shared this official statement from the museum:

We are working with Turner Construction, the company that is responsible for building our new home downtown, to ensure that all construction workers who are contributing their time and effort to the project will be given complimentary admission for the first year that we are open. We are delighted to recognize the contribution that these workers have made to the realization of our new home.


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