Last week, the Guggenheim Museum announced that it was ditching Frank Gehry as architect of its new Abu Dhabi site due to "overwhelming international concern about human and labor rights violations in the construction of the new cultural district". Instead, it's put out an open call for students, artists, architects and any other hopefuls to submit plans for a more sustainable museum as part of its #futureguggenheim competition.
The only thing is, all of this is fake – right down to the project's site, globalguggenheim.org, which is more or less a perfect replica of the current Guggenheim site. In the grand tradition of performance-based satires carried out by culture jammers like the Yes Men, the whole project is a stunt. More specifically, it's for Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F), an organisation that is protesting the dangerous and unfair working conditions at the Guggenheim construction site.
The new Guggenheim site has been beset by controversy over its development. Construction in Abu Dhabi is heavily dependent on migrant labour from countries including India and Pakistan, with many workers bound to punishing contracts and forced to work around the clock to pay off their debuts to recruiters. Over 1,800 artists, curators, writers and gallery owners are already boycotting the Abu Dhabi branch as part of Gulf Labor, a campaign group closely associated with G.U.L.F. Despite this, the Guggenheim expect to open the new site sometime in 2017.
"The Guggenheim expansion to Abu Dhabi exploits migrant workers caught in circuits of debt to middlemen who are sub-contracted to deliver workers at the lowest costs," explains a G.U.L.F statement. "As a leading cultural, educational and artistic institution, the Guggenheim Museum should push to abolish the recruitment debt system, ensure that workers are paid a living wage and legalize the right to collective bargaining."
This isn't the first time G.U.L.F have hit the Guggenheim; they've also been involved with staging leaflet drops inside the museum during opening hours and projecting slogans like "Art is not a luxury" onto the exterior walls of the seven-floor building last week.
You can watch their leaftlet drop here:
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing