[Marxism] Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun May 25 10:31:53 MDT 2014


NY Times, May 25 2014
Protesters Urge Guggenheim to Aid Abu Dhabi Workers

Protesters critical of the Guggenheim Museum’s planned franchise in Abu 
Dhabi smuggled artworks into the museum on Saturday evening, placing 
them in an exhibit of Italian Futurism.

The art created by the group, Global Ultra Luxury Faction, known as 
G.U.L.F., bore a stylistic resemblance to the museum’s work but also 
listed names of some of the institution’s board of trustees.

As about 40 protesters spread through the multilevel museum, a voice 
boomed across the open rotunda: “No justice, no art.”

The intervention staged by G.U.L.F., which lasted about 15 minutes, was 
part of a growing protest of labor conditions on Saadiyat Island, off 
the coast of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The Frank 
Gehry-designed Guggenheim will soon be built there, alongside an 
under-construction branch of the Louvre museum and a recently completed 
campus of New York University. The group called on museum officials to 
ensure that workers there are treated fairly.

Some museum visitors seemed bewildered to encounter a protest inside one 
of New York City’s leading cultural institutions, but security guards 
were less surprised; the protest on Saturday was the third since 
February to take place inside the museum. Guards quickly ejected 
protesters and ripped down the unsanctioned art.

Museum protests are the latest tactic employed by groups critical of the 
Guggenheim’s project: The highly visible spectacles are meant to draw 
attention to a campaign that has been waged more quietly for years.

Much of the work on Saadiyat Island, a luxury enclave being developed by 
the Emirates government, is done by foreign migrants, who are required 
to pay large recruitment and transit fees, critics say. In addition, the 
critics add, employers often seize the workers’ passports, house them in 
substandard conditions and pay them less than expected, all while 
enforcing demanding work schedules.

A statement from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation said that 
strengthening labor protections was a museum priority.

“The recent reports that allege continued worker mistreatment at 
Saadiyat Island are disturbing and should give anyone pause,” the 
statement said, adding: “The Guggenheim is working closely with our 
partners in Abu Dhabi at the highest levels to continue to improve 
workers welfare practices.”

It is unclear, however, how much influence the museum might wield in a 
project that is being led by the Emirates government.

The plight of workers in Abu Dhabi recently received widespread 
attention after The New York Times reported that laborers helping to 
build the N.Y.U. campus said that they had been subject to police raids, 
beatings and deportations after going on strike.

The university apologized, but it remains to be seen whether that 
remorse will have any effect in the Emirates, where workers have few 
rights and dissent is considered subversive. A company in the Emirates 
that prints copies of The New York Times omitted the story about the 
workers from editions last week.

Criticism over conditions on Saadiyat Island dates back at least to 
2009, when Human Rights Watch said in a report that migrant workers 
faced “severe exploitation and abuse.”

The following year, 43 artists sent a letter to the Guggenheim asking 
that the foundation protect workers building the museum. In 2013 a group 
called Gulf Labor, which is connected to G.U.L.F., called upon cultural 
institutions to help migrant workers secure rights.

The first protest inside the museum took place in February when 
participants blew a bugle and distributed leaflets. In March, protesters 
scattered thousands of bills of fake currency bearing the slogan 
“speculative global museum.”

That month activists, including some with Occupy Museums, an Occupy Wall 
Street offshoot, also projected images of dollar bills onto the facade 
of the museum. And protesters began a satirical website, 
globalguggenheim.org, that is published in six languages and promotes 
campaigns criticizing the Abu Dhabi project.

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