Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid the Subject of Controversy for Middle East Projects

East, International
Thursday, March 6, 2014
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Protesters inside the Guggenheim. (Courtesy Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction)

Protesters inside the Guggenheim. (Courtesy Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction)

Nearly 50 activists recently took over the Guggenheim’s spiraling balconies to protest the museum’s planned branch in Abu Dhabi. The protesters, who are affiliated with Gulf Labor and Occupy Museums, dropped pamphlets, rolled out banners, and hung a manifesto to criticize Abu Dhabi’s poor record on workers’ rights.

Gothamist reported that the activists chanted, “The Guggenheim should not be built on the backs of abused workers. The Guggenheim should listen to the voices of migrant workers. Is this the future of art?”

The Frank Gehry–designed museum will rise off the coast of Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island, near new works by Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, and Norman Foster.

In response to the protest, Guggenheim Director Richard Armstrong said in a statement, “The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation is engaged in ongoing, serious discussions with our most senior colleagues in Abu Dhabi regarding the issues of workers’ rights. As global citizens, we share the concerns about human rights and fair labor practices and continue to be committed to making progress on these issues.”

Zaha Hadid kicked up further criticism for her insensitive-seeming remarks in the Guardian, where she dismissed responsibility for worker safety on a stadium construction site in Qatar: “I have nothing to do with the workers. I think that’s an issue the government—if there’s a problem—should pick up. Hopefully, these things will be resolved.” She previously sparked criticism for her comments on building under dictators in Syria.

Hadid's Qatar stadium has been controversial from the beginning. (Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects)

Hadid’s Qatar stadium has been controversial from the beginning. (Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects)

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