Artists Threaten to Boycott Guggenheim

Topic(s): Art/Politics | Comments Off on Artists Threaten to Boycott Guggenheim

March 17, 2011
To: Richard Armstrong, Director
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
1071 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10128

We, the undersigned, are writing to demand that the Guggenheim Foundation obtain contractual guarantees that will protect the rights of workers employed in the construction and maintenance of its new branch museum in Abu Dhabi.

Human rights violations are currently occurring on Saadiyat Island, the location of the new
museum. In two extensive reports on the UAE, Human Rights Watch has documented a cycle of abuse that leaves migrant workers deeply indebted, poorly paid, and unable to defend their rights or even quit their jobs. The UAE authorities responsible for developing the island have failed to tackle the root causes of abuse: unlawful recruiting fees, broken promises of wages, and a sponsorship system that gives employers virtually unlimited power over workers.
These violations, which threaten to sully the Guggenheim’s reputation, present a serious, moral challenge to those who may be asked to work with the museum. No one should be asked to exhibit or perform in a building that has been constructed and maintained on the backs of exploited employees.

Human Rights Watch has expressed its concerns to the Foundation on several occasions, but so far, adequate steps have not been taken to ensure that workers’ rights will be respected at the Abu Dhabi site. While the Guggenheim is franchising its name and is not a direct party to the subcontractors who employ the migrant labor, it can and should assert responsibility for the well-being of these workers.

We urge the Foundation and its partners in Abu Dhabi, TDIC (Tourism Development and Investment Company), to conform rigorously to the various commitments made in the TDIC’s Employment Practices Policy (EPP), dated June 2010, the TDIC/Guggenheim Statement of Shared Values, published September 22, 2010, and the recent EPP update, amended March 11th, 2011. Moreover, we urge the Foundation and TDIC to address the current absence of independent monitoring of employers’ compliance with international human rights and labor laws, and the lack of an effective enforcement mechanism. A monitor must be empowered to make random visits to work sites and maintain a relationship independent of employer influence. It must also determine if its findings conform to international laws and standards, and it must issue public reports on these findings. In the absence of these conditions, violations will persist and continue to be under-reported. Similarly, without explicit mechanisms for enforcing the terms of the contract or clearly enumerated remedies in the event of breaches, all efforts to protect workers will be in vain. TDIC has announced that it will appoint a “reputable independent monitor” in May. We demand that the appointment be made as soon as possible and that the conditions outlined above be observed as part of the monitor’s mandate.

Our cooperation with the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi (and, for many of us, at other Guggenheim locations) will not be forthcoming if the Foundation fails to take steps to safeguard the rights of the workers who will be employed in the museum’s operations on Saadiyat Island. Human Rights Watch will determine if and when adequate monitoring measures have been established and effectively implemented.

Hamra Abbas
Jumana Abboud
Adel Abidin
Dennis Adams:
Shaina Anand
Yazid Anani
Ayreen Anastas
Doug Ashford
Kader Attia
Maja Bejevic
Khaled Barakeh
Yto Barrada
Regine Basha
Shumon Basar
Ute Meta Bauer
Anthea Behm
Zarina Bhimji
Doris Bittar
Monica Bonvicini
Gregg Bordowitz
Tania Bruguera
François Bucher
Ringo Bunoan
Janet Cardiff
Mario Caro
Mel Chin
Wendy Coburn
Pablo de Ocampo
T. J. Demos
Corinne Diserens
Willie Doherty:
Sam Durant
Jimmie Durham
Koken Ergun
Annika Eriksson
Harun Farocki
Azin Feizabadi:
Andrea Fraser
Rene Gabri
Emeren Garcia
Andrea Geyer
Leyla Gediz
Miriam Ghani
Paul Graham
Avery Gordon
Catherine Grout
Hans Haacke
Joana Hadjithomas
Khaled Hafez
Tone Hansen
Shuruq Harb
Mona Hatoum
Sharon Hayes
Sandi Hilal
Christine Hill
Thomas Hirschhorn
Vlatka Horvat
Alfredo Jaar
Emily Jacir
Luis Jacob
Jakob Jakobsen
Khalil Joriege
Lamia Joriege
Amar Kanwar
Thomas Keenan
Deborah Kelly
Laleh Khorramian
Marty Kirchner
Silvia Kolbowski
Barbara Kruger
Carin Kuoni
Laura Kurgan
Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez
Lani Maestro
Chus Martines
Angela Melitopoulos
John Menick
George Bures Miller
Naeem Mohaiemen
Rabih Mroué
Matt Mullican
Huma Mulji
Antonio Muntadas
Monica Narula
Issam Nassar:
Yamini Nayar
Diana Nemiroff
Molly Nesbit
Shirin Neshat
Angel Nevarez
Tom Nicholson
Marcel Odenbach
Gina Osterloh
Trevor Paglen
Cornelia Parker
Christine Peters
Nata_a Petre_in-Bachelez
Alessandro Petti
Paul Pfeiffer
Walid Raad
Mike Rakowitz
Annie Ratti
Martha Rosler
Andrew Ross
Natascha Sadr Haghighian
Anjalika Sagar
Jayce Salloum
Rasha Salti
Katya Sander
Lina Saneh
Allan Sekula
Vivien Selbo
Stephen Sheehi
Adania Shibli
Gregory Sholette
Suha Shoman
Reid Shier
Katharina Sieverding
Carl Skelton
Ashok Sukumaran
Julia Scher
Hito Steyerl
Beth Stryker
Paolo W. Tamburella
Rirkrit Tiravanija
Valerie Tevere
Oraib Toukan
Tristan Tremeau
Gediminas Urbonas
Murtaza Vali
Fabienne Verstraeten
Krzysztof Wodiczko
Akram Zaatari
Florian Zeyfang