The best of Dubai’s art scene
What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you see the word “art”? Paintings, obscure imagery, minimalist displays like a garbage bag on the floor? We don’t blame you. But scout around Dubai’s many galleries and exhibitions, and you’ll find plenty more beautiful crafts that will have you buzzing with existential thoughts for days. Check out the top places to visit throughout the year. And yes, we go beyond the city’s art hub, Alserkal Avenue.
1. Carbon 12
This is where the work of institution-grade artists gets to shine. First opening its doors back in 2008, Carbon 12 was made as a platform for students to display their talents for the world to see, thanks to the six to eight exhibitions it holds every year. Exhibitions are creative and varied, with stunning work including this year’s The Gloomiest Sunset in the World. If you’re intrigued by how in the world that might look, get down to Carbon 12 for a neo-expressionist trip along the blurred lines of fantasy and reality at Amir Khojaesteh’s solo exhibition. It’s a satirical homage to classical portraiture by the Iranian artist, with peculiar works evoking an almost dream-like quality. The deceptive illusions and political messages evident in the body of work reveal a twisted sense of humour that will leave you captivated.
When: Open Saturday-Thursday, 11.30pm-7pm
Where: Alserkal Avenue
Contact: +971 4 340 6016
Gulf Photo Plus
A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say, which means you’ll have tens of thousands crammed into your head at this gallery. Gulf Photo Plus is Dubai’s centre for all things photography, equipping and inspiring the local and international photography community through workshops, free talks by artists and the region’s longest-running international photography event, GPP Photo Week. There’s also plenty of exhibitions throughout the year, with past editions highlighting captivating photos from Dubai’s past, including the construction of Ain Dubai with a twist, along with some of the most intriguing snaps of buses in the city. It’s here you find that literally anything, with a good camera and an artistic hand, can be made hugely thought-provoking.
When: Saturday-Thursday, 10am-7pm
Where: D36, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz
Contact: +971 4 380 8545
If you’re after contemporary art and experimental streams of thought about all things culture – oh, and the colour grey – then Grey Noise is the place to be. Showcasing an impressive portfolio of artists with a focus on work from South Asia, the Middle East and Europe, these artworks really go deep into matter, objects and the space around them, and will certainly have those philosophical thoughts whizzing around your mind. Grey Noise changes its galleries throughout the year, with works from Fazal Rizvi from September to October and Pakistani artist Iqra Tanveer from November to December. It’s free to enter, so you may as well have a gander.
When: Saturday-Thursday, 11am-7pm
Where: Warehouse 24, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz
Contact: +971 4 379 0764
Ishara Art Foundation
This one is quite the newbie, as it only opened up earlier in 2019. That doesn’t take anything away from it, though, as it already boasts dedicated space for monographic presentations, group exhibitions, new commissions and touring exhibitions – all to explore the diaspora and overlapping histories of the regions around India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. It caters for Dubai’s diverse local and international audience, showcasing exhibitions filled with contemporary art with a South Asian twist, and were all aware how striking and inventive they can be. If you don’t, get down here so you’re finally in the know.
When: Saturday-Thursday 11am-7pm
Where: A3, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz
Contact: +971 4 223 3001
Jameel Arts Centre
This one is quite the biggie in the art world since its opening in November 2018, as it supports artists and creative communities around the region. Not only that, but it also hosts the Jameel Prize Award’s exhibition, which is the only global award for artists and designers inspired by Islamic design and visual culture. In fact, it’s so notable that it goes on tour to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum as well – but its first stop is the Jameel Art Centre in Dubai. This year sees the Jameel Prize 5 Exhibition present works by the joint prize winners – Iraqi artist Mehdi Moutashar and Bangladeshi architect Marina Tabassum – plus those by the prize’s shortlisted artists and designers including Iranian artist Kamrooz Aram, Jordan and Dubai-based graphic designer and architect duo Naqsh collective and Iraqi-born painter Hayv Kahraman. As for what else goes on, exhibitions boast inspirations from a range of Islamic calligraphy to embroidered shawls, along with multimedia art pieces that will make you blurt out “wow”.
When: Open Saturday-Monday, Wednesday-Thursday 10am-8pm; Friday, noon-10pm
Where: Jaddaf Waterfront
Contact: +971 4 873 9800
La Galerie Nationale
Who says furniture isn’t a form of art? The designers at La Galerie Nationale shake their heads at such a question, and you will too once you see what’s on show. The gallery specialises in original art furniture made by top designers representing the 20th century. Specifically, that time as its birthplace of generations of extraordinary designers mastering new material while still managing the feat of making them useful, usable and comfortable…most of the time. The gallery showcases various exhibitions that focus on specific periods and places, from the fantastic ‘50s to the groovy ‘70s.
When: Saturday-Thursday, 10am-7pm
Where: Warehouse 27, Alserkal Avenue,
Contact: +971 4380 4652
Salsali Private Museum
In April 2011, the Salsali Private Museum (SPM) opened as the first Private Museum for contemporary art in the region. Today they house an eclectic collection of over 900 pieces of painting, photography, video art, sculpture and installations. These are showcased with aesthetic precision and attract worldwide interest. They also host the collections of guest collectors and travelling exhibitions from around the world and maintain a very high standard.
When: Sunday-Thursday 11am-6pm, Saturday 1pm-5pm
Where: Warehouse 14, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz
Contact: +971 4380 9600
Yes, this is an iconic Dubai-based platform made for creative minds to meet and explore the realms of art, but Tashkeel also features a skate ramp and beautiful garden to walk around in after rummaging around its many exhibits and workshops. Its open membership model gives artists at any level a chance to embark on a one-year development programme of studio practice, mentorship and training, with the result being a major solo presentation each year. It also has a list of trainings for experience, residencies, workshops, talks, exhibitions – you name it. Basically, there are plenty of reasons to head here.
When: Saturday-Thursday, 9am-10pm
Where: Street 5 and 20, Nad Al Sheba
Contact: +971 4 336 3313
Tabari Art Space
Middle Eastern art in all shapes and forms is what you’ll find at this DIFC gallery. The gallery represents and champions a range of established artists and is dedicated to the global promotion of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art. Tabari represents a list of talented artists from the region with varied art fairs, and what’s more, it’s a light and spacious area. Getting your artistic fix is an absolute breeze here.
When: Saturday-Thursday 9am-9pm, Friday noon-6pm
Where: Gate Village, Building 3, DIFC
Contact: +971 4 323 0820
This is a gallery that’s the culmination of art and culture. It’s in the heart of the oldest part of Dubai, after all. Oh, and did we mention it’s the only art hotel in Dubai? Clearly a destination for art-prone travellers. Keeping with its heritage, the boutique hotel is rooted with the old-style of the old buildings of Dubai, which only makes the exhibitions, ranging from traditional imagery to extravagant Middle Eastern paintings, all the more fitting.
When: Daily, 10am-6pm
Where: Al Fahidi Neighbourhood, Bur Dubai
Contact: +971 4 353 5383
EXHIBITIONS AND WORKSHOPS
Ceramics and pottery
If you’re learning how to cook, you may as well learn how to make the actual dish it comes in, too. From dinnerware and decorative vases, to creative sculptures, Yadawei’s ceramic and pottery classes will teach you how to delicately make them all, along with throwing techniques on the pottery wheel without actually throwing it. Sessions will introduce you to a list of methods, including centering, pulling, trimming and shaping clay on the wheel, how to manipulate clay into human/animal forms or design abstract designs, as well as functional simple stuff such as plates. Classes are well catered for first-time clay artisans, so don’t fret, a few clumpy “masterpieces” are expected. Pottery students can take part in their first trial class from AED180, and get four sessions from AED650. It’ll be messy, but what’s a little dirt when making a fine piece of art?
Price: AED180 (trial class), AED650 (four sessions).
When: Mon-Wed, 10am-9pm, Thu-Sat, 10am-6pm, Sun closed.
Where: Yadawei Ceramic Studio, Warehouse 30, Al Quoz Industrial Area 1
Contact: +971 4 379 1312
Fashion Forward Dubai
Fashion shows are a chance for designers to show off their works of art, in clothing form, on the catwalk. For all kinds of walking pieces of art, your best chance to see them is at Fashion Forward Dubai, set to return this October. Hosted at Dubai Design District, this avant-garde gathering of fashion designers, connoisseurs and enthusiasts elevates the city’s role as a hub for fashion in the Middle East. To shake things up, this year’s show will have a “shop-now” feature, where digital and physical platforms will allow buyers and consumers to actually purchase any of the collections on show. Along with displays of the region’s top fashion and accessory designers exclusive to the Middle East, the sixth edition of the highly-anticipated event will change what’s on trend in Dubai.
When: Wednesday October 30 – Saturday November 2
Where: Dubai Design District (d3)
Contact: +971 4 240 7122
International Centre for Culinary Arts
Leave it to the chefs to whip up a dish that tastes and smell delicious, but to make it look incredibly appetising? That’s for a culinary artist. Dubai International Centre of Culinary Arts teaches the cooks of the city how to craft the perfect dish, whether at an amateur or professional level. There’s a list of artisan classes, including bread-making and sweet chocolate-making, but there’s also more advanced sessions for those looking to master the art of sugar paste – the key ingredient in making those dazzling sculptures on wedding cakes or the ones you see on Cake Boss. There’s even an artisan pizza class for those just looking to make an eye-catching homemade pizza to impress their friends and family. If you thought cooking wasn’t a form of art, take one of these classes and the master’s will teach you otherwise.
When: Saturday-Wednesday, 8am-5pm, Thursday, 8am-1pm
Where: Block 8, Dubai Knowledge Park, near Main Gate
Contact: +971 4 457 8811
KAVE The Story of Things
Sometimes we need a space that will serve you healthy grub, offers work benches to customise bikes and furniture, and is pet-friendly. Sound like something you’d like to try? Alserkal Avenue’s new upcycling café, KAVE: The Story of Things, is all about protecting the environment by using zero-plastic and using cutlery and crockery that are either up-cycled or recycled after use. KAVE offers simple but healthy dishes, including a bowl of pho along with freshly made roti, which guests can pay for by buying someone else a roti. There’s also a bundle of different workshops that take place weekly, including guitar making, embroidery lessons, meditation sessions, bottle cutting workshops and chaircycling rides.
When: Monday-Saturday, 11am-9pm
Where: Warehouse 20, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz
Contact: +971 55 102 4469
You know those wicked paintings adorned across the walls of hipster cafés like a bulldog with a monocle or an uber suave, neon-coloured John Wick (we’re sure we’ve seen that somewhere…)? Well after a few oil painting classes at community art space thejamjar, you’ll be painting them yourself in no time. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, each class teaches different techniques about texture, layering and working with all those bright colours with a palette knife. To keep things fresh, the theme also changes each month, including painting contemporary still life of a melted ice cream. Keep that coming.
Price: From AED491 (three classes)
When: Classes vary per month
Where: Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz
Contact: +971 4 341 7303
Paint and grape
Have you ever had someone point out a piece of art on your wall and ask “who painted that?” Well, if you take We Love Art’s Paint & Grape workshops, you can proudly say it was solely your work, in a way. The classes invite budding artists of all skill levels to its Paint and Grape nights, where you will get a pre-sketched canvas and a host of painting materials to unleash your inner Picasso. Take it
home and adorn your wall with something you can be proud of. Go on, exercise some artistic flair while sipping on fine grape and act like an all-round sophisticated human being. You may just create a masterpiece.
Price: From AED387
When: Times and dates vary
Contact: +971 4 514 9339
If you’re after art that challenges the way we perceive material and our understanding of what it represents, Second Hand will make you ponder. Exploring materiality in contemporary art through sculpture, installation, assemblage, drawing, photography, painting and performance, you’ll find all mediums here. ‘Second Hand’ includes work by 18 local and international artists and collectives, exploring traditional and unorthodox approaches to ‘making’, from man-made to work created by machines. Along with performances, workshops, talks and film screenings all about the social, political and cultural qualities of materialistic items, this one will certainly turn you into the modern Thinking Man.
When: Wednesday-Thursday and Saturday-Monday 10am-8pm; Friday noon-10pm
Where: Near Dubai Creek, Jaddaf Waterfront
Contact: +971 4 873 9800
Sketch Art Café & Sketch Studio
Try your hand at a spot of drawing, painting, sculpting, printmaking and mosaics at this new café-meets-art studio on Al Wasl Road in Jumeirah. The space is sectioned off into a studio and café, where you can illustrate paper coffee cups, the most striking of which will be put on display on the Coffee Cup Wall of Fame.
When: Daily, 9am-11pm
Where: Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah
Contact: +971 4 271 2603
Look, over in d3! Is it a café? Is it a restaurant? Is it an arty shop featuring exclusive items? Well, it’s actually all three. You’ll always pass by something of interest to put up in your home at the cool Dubai Design District. It sells items inspired by minimalism, timelessness and functionality-featuring glassware, serveware and lifestyle accessories. Better yet, it also has a site featuring 28 different brands, 15 of which are exclusively available in Dubai, including MoMA Design Store from New York which makes Eames Chair coasters and iconic Magritte mugs. There’s also Skogsberg & Smart from Stockholm, specialists in hand-blown glass vessels with each piece made by skilled craftsmen in Czech Republic, as well as Chase & Wonder from the UK, an independent gifts and stationery brand.
When: Sunday- Friday, 8am-11am; Saturday 8am-5pm.
Where: Building No.6, Dubai Design District
Contact: +971 4 422 6024
The Library of Unread Books
Books are made to be read, not placed just as decoration (even though they do make a household look more sophisticated). It’s time to let them fulfil their meaning at the Middle East debut of The Library of Unread Books, a living reference library comprised of books that were unread by previous owners. Throughout the year, visitors to Jameel Arts Centre can donate whatever is collecting dust on their shelves to the Library, which will then be taken over to Jameel’s Lobby from November 16 to January 31, 2020. Initiated by Heman Chong and Renée Staal, it’s all for the arts community to browse through, with over 700 donated books. The Library is the result of a collective gesture, viewed as a whole, with the exhibition reflecting the notions of access, excess and the politics of redistribution. Nice. Who knows, another person’s unread book could be the best thing you’ve ever read.
When: Saturday November 16-Friday January 31, 2020
Where: Near Dubai Creek, Jaddaf Waterfront
Contact: +971 4 873 9800