While Abu Dhabi is attempting to position itself as an art powerhouse, with important new galleries such as the Louvre and the Guggenheim lending their considerable weight to the capital’s tourist offering, Dubai has been slowly developing a more organic art scene. With the smart new commercial galleries in DIFC and the more experimental spaces in Al Quoz’s warehouses, the city has become a magnet for artists from across the region – which is being reflected in works that are beginning to attract global attention.
Green Art Gallery Al Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz
Since its formation in 1995, Green Art Gallery has continued its evolution from a salon d’art into the contemporary art space with one of the more interesting programmes in the city. Exhibitions such as 2013’s Evacuated Containers by Palestinian artist Shadi Habib Allah and The Resurrection by Syria’s Jaber Al Azmeh last year have helped establish a strong local reputation.
Ayyam Gallery Al Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz and Gate Village Building 3, DIFC
Ayyam Gallery is a name that has become synonymous with Middle Eastern art. The gallery also has branches in Beirut, Damascus, Jeddah and London, only adding its Dubai space in 2006. Its global network has enabled the Dubai offshoot to present the best Arab and regional artists, usually with a comprehensive education programme held in conjunction. Recent highlights included a retrospective of Palestinian artist Samia Halaby and Saudi national Faisal Samra’s most recent collection.
Carbon 12 Al Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz
Al Serkal Avenue has become an artistic oasis amid the dust and dirt of the Al Quoz industrial area. There are a number of galleries on this list, but Carbon 12 has earned its place near the top of the pile with a track record of hosting significant artists going back to 2008. The yearly roster includes around eight exhibitions, from both established and emerging artists. Local artists who have exhibited there include Hazem Mahdy, Sara Rahbar and Farzan Sadjadi.
Artspace Dubai The Gate Village Building 3, DIFC
Artspace Dubai is one of the longer running galleries in the city having been established more than 12 years ago. Very much a commercial space, catering to investors and corporate buyers as much as individual collectors, the gallery hosts a number of exhibitions and offers consulting services. The clean white walls splashed with the colours of their hosted art make it an enjoyable experience in the midst of Dubai’s commerce and financial hub.
Courtyard Gallery Al Quoz 3
Courtyard Gallery holds the proud title of the being the first of the contemporary art galleries to emerge in the Al Quoz area, opening its doors in 2000. In 2011, it underwent major renovations and is now a 3,000 square-foot space that hosts an eclectic array of works with a particular emphasis on local artists – names such as calligrapher Mounir Shaarani and sculptor Mustafa Ali. Within the courtyard also sits a shop for art supplies, a workshop named Petals that we will let you discover yourself, and a cafe/coffee shop for lazy weekend afternoons.
Tashkeel Nad Al Sheba 1
Tashkeel is an inspiring space in and of itself. More of an organisation containing a gallery as part of its roster, Tashkeel also offers programmes, workshops, spaces for artists and even a skate ramp. Housing six projects a year within the exhibition space, it places an emphasis on education and interpretation, allowing the public to understand and discuss what it is seeing. Bring an open mind and maybe a skateboard.
MOJO Gallery Al Serkal Avenue, Al Quoz
The Mojo Gallery is a modern art gallery that explores all form of contemporary expression from across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, with particular interest in new media. With a number of special exhibitions held every year, the space encourages submissions from emerging artists which, in conjunction with its workshops, helps champion and promote local talent. More established artists who have exhibited at the gallery include Egyptian multimedia artist Medhat Shafik and Sonya Rademeyer from South Africa.