News Register for our weekly news digest here.

Rendering of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Photo: TDIC and Gehry Partners, LLP.
Rendering of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Photo: TDIC and Gehry Partners, LLP.

Construction of Long-Delayed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi to Begin Soon, Says Richard Armstrong

At Abu Dhabi’s third annual Culture Summit, which ran from April 7 to April 11, Richard Armstrong, the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum in New York, declared that the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is “on track and on budget.” In an interview with Euronews, he said that construction on the long-delayed Frank Gehry–designed museum will begin “soon” and should take around four years to complete.

“We’ve been working with our colleagues here to put together what we think is really the first global collection after 1965,” Armstrong said. “We’ll be seeing important examples of work from all parts of the world, mostly in the wake of Pop Art.” He added that the top floor will be able to accommodate large-scale works by artists such as James Turrell, Ernesto Neto, and Monika Sosnowska.

In 2014, the New York Times reported that the massive museum would be 450,000 square feet in size, which is twelve times larger than the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright building in New York, and cost $800 million. The project was initially announced in 2006 as part of Abu Dhabi’s multibillion-dollar initiative to increase cultural tourism and was supposed to open in 2012, but it has been held up following the 2008 economic recession and the Arab Spring, as well as changes in leadership at the UAE-backed Tourism, Development, and Investment Company. 

The museum has also faced opposition from the Gulf Labor Coalition, which has repeatedly raised concerns over the working conditions of the migrant laborers who will build the institution on Saadiyat Island. In response, Armstrong penned an op-ed that was published in the New York Times in 2015, which stressed that “documented progress has been made on worker accommodation, access to medical coverage, grievance procedures, and passport retention, and additional work is underway.”

In 2016, the Guggenheim ended talks with the activist group, citing the continual shift of their demands on the museum, many of which Armstrong said were beyond the reach of its influence as an arts institution. Once completed, the institution will be the largest branch of the Guggenheim Museum.  

The Tourism, Development, and Investment Company did not respond to Artforum’s request for comment.