When I read the letter signed by the heads of Chicago museums in support of the Mayor’s Lucas Museum lakefront land grab I immediately thought of the Guggenheim Museum being built in Abu Dhabi, designed by celebrity architect Frank Gehry.
Human rights violations are currently occurring on Saadiyat Island, the location of the new museum. In two extensive reports on the UAE, Human Rights Watch has documented a cycle of abuse that leaves migrant workers deeply indebted, poorly paid, and unable to defend their rights or even quit their jobs. The UAE authorities responsible for developing the island have failed to tackle the root causes of abuse: unlawful recruiting fees, broken promises of wages, and a sponsorship system that gives employers virtually unlimited power over workers.
There have been protests.
As far as I know Gary Johnson, President of Museums in the Park, Bridget Coughlin, President & CEO of the Shedd Aquarium, Perri Irmer, President & CEO of the DuSable Musuem of African American History, Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker Director Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Richard Lariviere, President & CEO of The Field Museum, Michelle B. Larson, President & CEO of the Adler Planetarium, Deborah Lahey. President & CEO of the Chicago Academy of Sciences/Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, David Mosena, President & CEO of the Museum of Science and Industry, Billy Ocasio, President, The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, James Rondeau, President and Eloise W. Martin, Director of The Art Institute of Chicago nor Carlos Tortolero, President of the National Museum of Mexican Art have spoken out or signed the petition about this issue involving another member of their museum community.
But then, what is going on with the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi is about human and labor conditions. That’s not the concern of the museum community.
“Drawing new tourists to Chicago translates to more visitors also discovering our City’s other attractions and planning return visits. This is the kind of economic boost that we need during these challenging times for our city and our state,” they wrote, sounding more like tourist marketing executives.
Really. That’s what they are. Hucksters. Carnival barkers. And real estate agents.
In Brooklyn last year, anti-gentrification protestors set up camp at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Hundreds of real estate developers and investors streamed into the Brooklyn Museum on Tuesday morning, past a 65-foot cloth banner proclaiming “Brooklyn Is Not For Sale!” Nearby, dozens of local artists and community activists shouted “Greedy! Greedy!”, protesting the institution’s decision to host the sixth annual Brooklyn Real Estate Summit.
“White dudes in fancy suits is all I see,” said Olivia Fox, a performance artist from Queens. Fox, who was holding up one end of the banner, is a member of the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN). “The Brooklyn Museum is supposed to serve Brooklyn, and it should be serving its most vulnerable population first and foremost,” she added.
There’s a reason so many of those that signed the letter for the Lucas Museum have CEO as their title.