Guggenheim Responds to Artists’ Abu Dhabi Boycott

Following last week’s release of a statement and the start of a boycott by more than 100 artists against the Guggenheim, claiming the labor practices at the foundation’s ongoing construction of a new, Frank Gehry-designed museum in Abu Dhabi, the organization has issued a letter in an attempt to do some damage control and win the protestors back. In the letter, signed by Guggenheim’s director, Richard Armstrong and its chief curator, Nancy Spector, the letter spells out all the work the foundation has done to try and maintain safe and fair working conditions, and promising to do more and include the artists into the process. It sounds like a genuine plea, that the Guggenheim is worried about the damage the boycott will do, but now that the ball is in the protester’s court, as of this writing, they’ve yet to respond. Here’s a bit from the letter:

We believe that the statements that were made last week by Human Rights Watch have painted an inaccurate picture of the substantial progress in safeguarding workers’ rights that has been made to date. Clearly, the Guggenheim shares the goals expressed by you, the signatories of your petition, and Human Rights Watch to protect worker’s rights in Abu Dhabi. We believe that the progress made thus far is more than ceremonial. In fact, it signals fundamental changes in the emirates’ decades-long labor practices. It is important to us that you understand this was achieved through persistent and sustained effort on our part working in tandem with TDIC. We recognize that there is still much to strive for but know from past experience that change such as this is incremental around the world. It is very troubling to us that your statement portrays the Guggenheim as a passive agent with little consciousness of the issues at hand. That is the exact opposite of the truth.