Abu Dhabi Says Saadiyat Island Will Move Forward


The sprawling multibillion-dollar cultural development on Saadiyat Island is moving forward, according to a statement that appeared today on the website of Abu Dhabi’s executive council. Two of the projects slated for the island-outposts of the Guggenheim and the Louvre-were put on hold last October as Abu Dhabi’s economy foundered. Saadiyat Island is being developed by the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), of the United Arab Emirates.

The statement says that “budgets and opening dates were approved for the museum projects in the cultural district,” which also includes the Zayed National Museum in addition to the Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre project and the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim. Those budgets and dates, however, are not specified. The museum news came at the end of a long statement mostly announcing the approval of new projects related to social services, housing, health and education; the dates for those undertakings are more specific.

Progress on the cultural projects has been halting since they were announced in 2006. On Oct. 24, 2011, the Art Newspaper reported that the emirate had returned fees associated with contractors’ bids for concrete work on the Guggenheim project, and that it was on indefinite hold. In response, on Oct. 29, the TDIC issued a statement saying that “due to the immense magnitude of the work” for the Cultural District projects, the construction schedules were being reviewed and extended. It said, “significant progress has already been made on the museums, including finalized and detailed architectural designs, and all foundation and piling work.”

The Guggenheim has repeatedly come under fire from artists and Human Rights Watch for not protecting the rights of migrant workers who are frequently exploited by contractors. Last year the Guggenheim Foundation issued a statement voicing support for the TDIC’s appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers “as an independent monitor, which is an essential component of safeguarding workers’ rights and ensuring that the contractors and sub-contractors . . . comply with UAE labor laws and TDIC’s Employment Practices Policy.” The Guggenheim could not be immediately reached for comment.