Gulf Labor, a group of international artists, occupied the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice this morning, 8 May. The collective, which is an official participant in the 2015 Venice Biennale, has been raising awareness of the plight of migrant workers building cultural centres in Abu Dhabi.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation has defended its plans to build an outpost in the oil-rich emirate. In a statement released today, the New York-based foundation said it “acted in good faith but we are still the subject of demonstrations”. Representatives said they have been working closely with the Tourism Development and Investment Company in Abu Dhabi to “advance progress on conditions for workers”, adding, “we have consistently informed Gulf Labor of our efforts, but they have yet to acknowledge them publicly”. The foundation also said it met with representatives of Gulf Labor today.
According to reports by Hyperallergic, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection was temporarily closed to the public at 11.30am. Andrew Ross, a New York University professor and member of Gulf Labor, told Hyperallergic: “We were treated with disdain by Guggenheim authorities last week [during a protest at the museum in New York], [they] would rather shut down the museum than speak to us. We’re only amplifying the workers demands and using our volunteer effort and labour to do so. They are not treating our demands with the seriousness they deserve.”
A work by Gulf Labor, Who is building the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (2015), is on show in Okwui Enwezor’s central exhibition at the 2015 Venice Biennale.