Despite threats of protests from labor activists concerned with conditions for construction workers at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the museum is set to open a dazzling premiere exhibition focused on light this Wednesday in the United Arab Emirates' capital. The Frank Gehry-designed museum, still under construction at Manarat Al Saadiyat, will introduce its curatorial vision through a theme-based collection presentation of 19 artworks.
Seeing through Light: Selections from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Collection examines the theme of light as a primary aesthetic principle in art, and includes artists Angela Bulloch, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Robert Irwin, Y.Z. Kami, Bharti Kher, Rachid Koraïchi, Yayoi Kusama, Otto Piene, and Douglas Wheeler. On view November 5, 2014–January 19, 2015, this preview exhibition includes works acquired specifically for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection, as well as two key loans from its partner institution, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
The group Gulf Labor has claimed that the new Guggenheim branch has not provided workers, many originating from south Asia, with a living wage, or let them form workers' councils. Workers are said to be told to pay dubious recruitment fees. Staged demonstrations for labor reform have taken place at the Guggenheim in New York and elsewhere.
Gehry's design for the new museum is described as "a monument to light whose glass-covered cones are guaranteed to become beacons on the cultural landscape of Abu Dhabi," according to a Guggenheim press release. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi should officially open in late 2017 as a centerpiece of the new Saadiyat Island cultural district.