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Call to Action: Frieze New York

May 8, 2013

via Arts & Labor (A Working Group from OWS) 


To artists, gallerists, workers, and fairgoers attending Frieze New York:

For the second year in a row, Frieze and its subcontractor Production Glue have hired low-wage, non-unionized workers to construct their fair, bringing in people from as far away as Wisconsin. This breaks with the industry standard: the major New York City art fairs including the Armory and the ADAA, as well as many other cultural and business expositions, employ unionized workers to construct and run their shows.

Frieze is a for-profit private event that takes over a municipal public park for two months to serve a global clientele of wealthy art collectors. The fair pays less than $1 per square foot to lease the land from the city. With a ticket price of $42 per day, Frieze is inaccessible to many working New Yorkers. However, despite the cheap rent and high admission prices to an event that generates millions of dollars in art sales, Frieze claims it cannot afford to pay decent wages to local workers.

Labor organizations including Teamsters Joint Council 16, NYC Central Labor Council, IATSE Local 829, IATSE Local 1, NYC District Council of Carpenters, and District Council 9 have all called on Frieze to employ their union members and guarantee local workers a fair, living wage with benefits. This demand has been repeated by City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (representing Randall’s Island), as well as City Councilmembers Jessica Lappin and Mark Weprin and U.S. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY12). As Weprin said recently, “Frieze NY Art Fair, or any private business that chooses to use public parks, should hire local New York workers and adhere to fair labor standards.”

If you are an artist or gallerist showing at the fair:

  • We ask you to refuse to serve as a fig leaf for exploitation. We ask you to decline to lend artistic cachet to an event that does not support New Yorkers, and that desperately needs the stamp of cultural seriousness to justify itself to the public.

  • Even if you cannot withdraw from the fair at this point, we ask you to consider speaking out publicly against Frieze’s unfair labor practices by making information about this issue available at your booth. We would be glad to provide you with a sign and/or flyers you can display.

  • We also urge you to tell Frieze organizers that you are an artist or represent artists in the exhibition and that you support organized labor.

If you are attending or work at the fair: Urge everyone you know to contact Frieze to demand they engage in fair labor practices, and consider not attending the fair until Frieze agrees.

It takes courage to speak the truth when many wish to deny it, but rest assured that should you decide to stand up and speak out, you will not be alone.

The arts are an economic engine for New York, bringing millions of people and billions of dollars to the city each year. Yet each year, more jobs become unpaid internships, artists are denied payment for their labor, real wages go down, and benefits are lost; meanwhile, the city becomes more expensive and the distribution of wealth more unequal. We believe in the importance of holding institutions such as Frieze accountable for their impact on New York and the people who live and work here. We want to see art bloom across our city, but we know there is a better, fairer way to foster this growth.


Arts & Labor

To contact Frieze:

Frieze New York Office
41 Union Square West, Suite 1623 New York, NY 10003
+1 212 463 7488
Enquiries: +1-646-9188598+1-646-9188078

Amanda Sharp
Matthew Slotover

Assistant to Director Amanda Sharp
Renee Browne
+1 212 463 7488

Frieze London Office
1 Montclare Street London  E2 7EU, UK
+44 (0)20 3372 6111

#FF #FNY13 #FriezeRatFair

For more information on this struggle, see:

Arts & Labor, “NYC Labor Leaders Demand that Frieze NY Art Fair Hire Local and Union

Mostafa Heddaya, “Labor Issues in Spotlight as Frieze NY Prepares for May Art Fair

Whitney Kimball, “Unions, City Council, Congresswoman Protest Frieze

Rozalia Jovanovic, “New York Union Members Speak Out at City Hall Against Frieze’s Labor Policies




via Ben Davis (ArtInfo)



Gulf Labor Adds Its Voice to the Protests Against Frieze New York

As the weekend arrived, by most accounts business was gathering steam at the second-annual Frieze New York art fair. So, however, was the simmering controversy over the fair’s use of non-union construction labor. This morning, the group Gulf Labor added its voice to those condemning fair organizers, publishing a statement of solidarity with the unions and other groups who have been protesting the event.

Gulf Labor was formed to call attention to the poor conditions for workers in the construction of the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim and other cultural institutions in the United Arab Emirates’s massive Saadiyat Island cultural development. In the past, the group has threatened to boycott the new Guggenheim if it can’t guarantee worker’s rights and agitated for independent monitoring or labor conditions on Saadiyat Island. Its statement on Frieze New York explicitly draws parallels between the struggle for worker’s rights around the world.

The full statement, below:

Gulf Labor statement on Frieze New York

It has been Gulf Labor‘s position since its inception that the disregard of worker rights is a global phenomenon which requires resistance wherever it emerges, and wherever one is able to act. We have stated that this disregard for the safety, social conditions, and rights of workers is a problem not unique to Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates.

A sometimes invisible but palpable line conjoins a Foxconn factory worker in China, a garment worker in Bangladesh, a miner in South Africa, a construction worker in the United Arab Emirates, a Frieze art fair builder in New York, and even the artists who have worked on this statement.

We have chosen to highlight the conditions of work in Saadiyat Island because we see an opportunity to convince institutions, such as the Guggenheim Museum, to live up to their visionary words. Moreover, we hope to bring these issues to the forefront and build solidarity elsewhere, to demand fair labor practices not only in the UAE, but globally; not only in the visual arts, but in all spheres of work.

For this reason, we share the concerns raised by the Arts & Labor group, labor unions and organizations, as well as local city council members around labor practices at Frieze Art Fair in New York. Gulf Labor supports calls to Frieze, their various sponsors including Deutsche Bank and BMW, and all affiliated parties, to meet the basic standards for living wages and protection of workers from injuries.

Organizing Committee of Gulf Labor

Gulf Labor’s letter follows several other solidarity actions that have dogged the fair. L.A. artist Andrea Bowers prominently hung letters stating her opposition to Frieze’s labor policy, and yesterday Suzanne Lacy and Nato Thompson yielded a part of their Frieze Talk to an activist from the group Arts & Labor to speak about the issues.


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