Human Rights Watch back Guggenheim boycottby Orlando Crowcroft on Mar 17, 2011
Human Rights Watch has backed a boycott by leading artists of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, saying that it was a major step towards focusing attention on the plight of foreign workers at the UAE mega-project.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said that the Guggenheim, which is currently under construction on Saadiyat Island, runs the risk of being better known for its association with exploited workers than with art.
“This leading group of artists is making clear that the steps taken to date by Guggenheim and TDIC are inadequate. If the Guggenheim and TDIC fail to address the artists’ concerns the museum may become better known for exhibiting labor violations than art,” she said.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that 130 leading artists had signed a boycott pledge, demanding that Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and its developer, Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), offer more protection to workers building the museum on Saadiyat Island.
Their specific complaints relate to payment of wages and the alleged refusal of contractors to reimburse worker’s recruitment fees, which can run into thousands of dollars and leave them in serious debt.
Human Rights Watch was the first organization to highlight the problem, publishing a report in 2009 that was rejected vehemently by UAE authorities.
TDIC could not be contacted for comment by Construction Week.
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