International News Digest


Gulf Labor, an activist group composed of international artists, has released its latest report on the conditions of workers being employed in the ongoing construction taking place on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island—including the Guggenheim and Louvre’s ongoing projects. The group formed the report after being invited by the emirate’s Tourism Development and Investment Company to visit the construction sites and workers’ accommodations last month. Among other findings, Gulf Labor’s report noted, “Low pay was the single largest complaint we encountered in talking to workers throughout our visits.” Other continuing problems included a lack of employee benefits, the existence of workers recruitment fees, which left many in debt, and a poorly functioning complaints redressal system.

In putting forth a list of recommendations, Gulf Labor emphasized transparency, suggesting that “contractors responding to the Guggenheim and other museum tenders should describe their recruiting processes in detail.” The watchdog group also encouraged the “formation of workers councils” and the establishment of a living wage. The full report can be found here.

In an unexpected twist to the fate of the Nazi-looted art cache discovered last year, Cornelius Gurlitt, who’d sat on the cache for years, died on Tuesday, leaving the hundreds of European art works to the Kunstmuseum Bern, according to the New York Times. Because Gurlitt had reached an agreement with the German government, the works will nonetheless be open to continuing provenance research and the possibility of restitution claims. The museum, meanwhile, dryly noted that the gift “brings with it a considerable burden of responsibility and a wealth of questions of the most difficult and sensitive kind, and questions in particular of a legal and ethical nature.”

Artist Timo Seber has won the Columbus Award for contemporary art, which is given by the Columbus Foundation and ADKV (the association of German kunstvereins) and comes with over $40,000. According to Art, the annual prize seeks to support artists who are at the end of their academic training or even at the beginning of her artistic career, a target group that is traditionally promoted by art associations. The prize also comes with an exhibition in 2015 at the GAK Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst in Bremen.

The Baibakov Art Projects blog has been following the ongoing controversy surrounding Grigory Revzin’s dismissal from his post as commissioner of the Russian pavilion for the Venice Biennale of Architecture. No one knows for sure why Revzin was replaced by Semyon Mikhailovsky, rector of St. Petersburg’s Repin Institute for Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture—but the Baibakov blog reported on Interview Russia’s Q&A with Revzin, who discussed the fact that his work as a GQ columnist may have alienated the country’s officials. “It’s not about the exhibition concept, it’s about personal loyalty,” said Revzin. “Mikhailovsky signed his name to a petition, and I signed mine to a column.”