Gulflabor Artists Respond to Louvre’s Choice of Contractor for Abu Dhabi Museum

The Louvre has appointed Dubai-based contractor Arabtec to head up construction of its Jean Nouvel-designed branch in Abu Dhabi — a contract worth $653 million, according to The National. Gulflabor, which launched a boycott of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in 2010 after the museum failed to satisfy the group’s demands for worker protections on the Saadiyat Island site, has already responded to the Louvre’s announcement, calling for the museum to establish uniform labor conditions with its neighboring institutions.

The group also wants the Guggenheim to step up its role in the region. “The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi can be leading all cultural and educational institutions — just as it has in another human rights issue, that of Ai Weiwei — in implementing progressive labor standards for Saadiyat Island, instead of waiting for construction on the building to begin,” said artist Walid Raad, who is a member of Gulflabor along with Doug Ashford, Hans Haacke, Naeem Mohaiemen, and others. Raad noted that early infrastructure work on the Guggenheim’s building has already started.

In September, the labor monitor appointed by Abu Dhabi’s tourism board, PricewaterhouseCoopers, responded to some of the major complaints: unsafe living conditions at the workers’ camps, predatory recruitment fees, and few forums to express grievances. Gulflabor had mixed reviews of the findings, and is asking the Guggenheim to come forward with a public response.

“[W]e continue to call on all parties in the region to publicly commit themselves to the welfare and fair working conditions of those who will be constructing these cultural institutions,” said the press release.

The Louvre hopes to open in 2015, followed by the Zayed National Museum in 2016, and the Guggenheim in 2017.

— Rachel Corbett

This article also appears on Market Watch, ARTINFO’s art market blog.