Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
A front-page investigative story published in the New York Times today has confirmed previous allegations of labor abuses in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), echoing the findings of the Guardian, Human Rights Watch, and, most recently, the Gulf Labor activist group. Though the piece focuses on the New York University (NYU) campus recently completed in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the article repeats many of the specific observations made by the Gulf Labor activist group’s on-the-ground assessment — covered by Hyperallergic earlier this month — of labor conditions on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, which is home to the Guggenheim, NYU, Louvre, and other Abu Dhabi franchises of Western cultural institutions. The Times report, penned by Ariel Kaminer and Sean O’Driscoll, finds evidence of passport withholding, debts incurred from recruitment fees, violent interrogations for alleged labor organizers, summary deportation, and wage deception. One worker, the article alleges, was promised
a base pay of 1,500 dirham a month, or $408. After he arrived, he said, he found out it would be 700 dirham, about what other Saadiyat Island construction workers have been reported to make.
The Times’ coverage of the starchitecture-infused cultural development in the Gulf has been comprehensive, if uneven, with the front page playing host in recent years to incisive, Pulitzer-finalist reported essays and embarrassing, stenographic puff alike. Today’s story links the issues on Saadiyat to the ongoing activism of Gulf Labor, which has been discussed extensively in these pages and elsewhere. (This includes the Times itself, both when Holland Cotter addressed the February and March protest actions at the Guggenheim, and earlier in 2011, when the Grey Lady covered the original Gulf Labor boycott.)
The public relations effort against these allegations has also been underway for some time; the latest findings contravene NYU’s elaborately demonstrated “labor values.” These values were cited in a statement made by the university to other media this afternoon, which called the Times allegations “troubling and unacceptable” if “true as reported.” The lengthy comment, which details the aforementioned values and reiterates NYU Abu Dhabi’s apparently high safety standards, ends in a hedged mea culpa:
And to any worker who was not treated in line with the standards we set and whose circumstances went undetected and unremedied, we offer our apologies.
Absent significant reforms, the Guggenheim is likely in for a similar humiliation.
New works by one of Bangladesh’s most prominent photojournalists, writers, and activists are on view at the Chicago art space through November 27.
Council often uses humor as a political tool to expose systems of power and inequality in a society in which even death carries a high price tag.
An exhibition at the San Francisco Opera House pairs the work of incarcerated artists with Beethoven’s story of unjust imprisonment.
Many works take disruption and repetition as their themes, and many artists resurface in different sections, creating multiple affinities.
Hear from Holly Jean Buck, Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas, Simon Denny, Elizabeth Hoover, Renee Kemp-Rotan, Joseph Kunkel, and more at this free public event.
In Cooking with Paris, Hilton capitalizes on her portrayal of being a competent woman, while highlighting its anachronism through her absurd performance. Rosler manipulates the camera in the same way.
EFA Open Studios offers a portal into the creative habitats of over 65 artists working in Manhattan’s longest-running studio program, including Dannielle Tegeder, Wafaa Bilal, Cui Fei, and Anina Major.
A man says Blue Bayou took details of his life without his permission. Several women who appear in the documentary Sabaya say they did not consent to be filmed. How can filmmakers avoid these ethical pitfalls?
Ursula Biemann, Nicolas Bourriaud, and others said they will no longer participate in the event.
There is an official ban against the public mourning of Tiananmen Square victims in Hong Kong and mainland China.