News Register for our weekly news digest here.

Armed with a Projector, Activists Protest Guggenheim’s Decision to End Talks With Gulf Labor

Last night, members of the artist-activist groups Global Ultra Luxury Faction and the Illuminator projected phrases on the façade of the Guggenheim museum to protest the Guggenheim trustees’s decision to break off negotiations with the Gulf Labor Coalition, Carey Dunne of Hyperallergic reports.

The groups projected phrases such as “ultra luxury art/ultra low wages,” “every day is May day,” and “1%” on the iconic spiral architecture. A video loop of the faces and names of the museum’s trustees accompanied by the statement “you broke trust” also appeared. The protesters projected these messages from a parked van and then proceeded to the apartment building where William L. Mack, chairman of the Guggenheim board of directors, lives so that they could broadcast: “William L. Mack: You Broke Trust.”

Gulf Labor Coalition member Amin Husain said, “This is our way of sending a clear message to the Guggenheim trustees that the cynical marriage of ultra-luxury art and ultra-low wages is null and void.”

“This latest action by Gulf Labor is another example of their willingness to attack the Guggenheim for easy publicity versus pursuing a program of thoughtful advocacy,” Guggenheim spokesperson Tina Vaz said in a statement to “Their demands are not only beyond the Guggenheim’s direct line of influence but beyond the influence of any single arts institution. We are leveraging our advocacy to its fullest, but the issues they are focused on are highly complex and involve many players. The Guggenheim and our UAE partner, the Tourism Development & Investment Company, have dedicated significant energy and resources to and made measurable progress on the issue of workers’ welfare.”

The Guggenheim decided to end talks with the Gulf Labor Coalition concerning the working conditions of laborers building the museum's new Abu Dhabi building on April 13, as previously reported. “Gulf Labor continues to shift its demands on the Guggenheim beyond the reach of our influence as an arts institution while continuing to spread mistruths about the project and our role in it,” said Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong in an email to artists, curators, and museum directors around the globe.