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Artists Continue Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Boycott Despite New Labor Monitor

Friday, June 03, 2011

On Tuesday, the Guggenheim Museum announced that Pricewaterhouse Coopers would oversee the employment of migrant workers at the construction of its new location on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island. But artists who have been boycotting the museum over the construction workers' conditions said they would continue their actions until demands they put forward in a May meeting with the Guggenheim and its local development partner, the Tourism Development and Investment Company (T.D.I.C.), were met.

The artists' demands include making sure that any labor monitor selected not have any connection to the T.D.I.C., and that the monitor be vetted by Human Rights Watch, which wrote a report in 2009 about migrant workers' conditions on the island.

"We are encouraged by the promise that Pricewaterhouse Coopers will conduct surprise site visits as well as release comprehensive reports to the public on its audits," reads the artists' statement. Together, the group calls itself the Gulflabor Coalition. "We await to hear more details of the monitoring programs that PwC will put in place."

Nearly a year ago, the Gulflabor Coalition began organizing in defense of workers' rights at Abu Dhabi's quickly developing Saadiyat Island. In its online petition, which currently has more than 1,000 signatures, the coalition asked that the Guggenheim and the T.D.I.C. reimburse migrant workers their recruitment fees, guarantee that employers and recruiters not confiscate workers' passports, and that health care be provided for laborers.

Until the museum complies with its demands, the artists in the coalition have pledged not to display their work in the new Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum.

The Guggenheim declined to comment on WNYC's article.

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