Openings United Arab Emirates

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi on hold

Emirate cancels construction contracts for Gehry-designed museum

Frank Gehry's designs for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI. Construction of the vast, 24,000 sq. m Guggenheim museum planned for Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi has been put on hold after the emirate decided to recall the tender for the concrete works. The museum, designed by the US architect Frank Gehry, is one of four new institutions planned for a cultural district on the island.

The Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) has told the 11 contractors who submitted bids that it is returning the money—AED20,000 ($5,444)—they paid as part of the tender process. According to the online Middle Eastern business site MEED, the contractors—from as far afield as South Africa, South Korea and Canada—submitted bids for the AED400m (£68m) package in March this year. The museum was originally aiming for a 2013 opening, but recently this date was revised to 2015, according to a spokeswoman for TDIC. The company also said that the work will be retendered at a future date.

According to TDIC, however, the museum is not being cancelled. The state-owned entity issued a statement saying: “Due to a review of its project procurement strategy, Tourism Development & Investment (TDIC) has recalled the concrete works tender of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum.” But it said that “construction of the museum has started”, that land reclamation and design of the seawall have been completed, and that “the art collection continues to grow”.

A maelstrom of rumours has been swirling around Abu Dhabi for months that the Saadiyat Island project was slowing. Asked by The Art Newspaper about these on 11 October, Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong admitted that there was a slow-down in the project, due to a review ordered by the rulers. “It is going ahead but slower,” said Armstrong, who added: “But I don’t always know everything that is going on there.” Asked about other rumours that architects had not been paid and were walking off the job, he said that that these rumours were untrue. Contacted by The Art Newspaper, Jean Nouvel’s office confirmed that there was no problem with payments for the project for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, another of the museums planned for the island.

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