At first glance, Dubai appears to be void of culture. A city that is constantly developing and striving to be the biggest and the best; it doesn’t even seem to have its own identity. Except perhaps, for being unidentifiable.
The forests of towers that cover most of this strip of desert certainly don’t look as though they would house contemporary art. However, nor does the area around Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz; a neighbourhood packed with dusty warehouses and low rent flats for construction workers.
Yet Alserkal Avenue is the hub of contemporary art in Dubai. In a city full of malls and hotels, cultural activities have to fit in somewhere. It opened in 2007 and comprises several warehouses housing different art galleries. Indeed, almost all of Dubai’s art galleries. Even though the relaxed warehouse vibe is reminiscent of places in Berlin or New York, in a city where glamour and excess is paramount, Alserkal Avenue feels like a different world.
The Avenue comes into its own during the Preview night, where all the galleries reveal their new exhibitions. Many internationally acclaimed artists show off their work and stay to answer questions as people float freely from gallery to gallery, sipping champagne and eating canapés. Surprisingly however, it’s totally free and non-exclusive.
There are international galleries such as La Galerie Nationale, currently exhibiting Unreasonable! Objects of Desire which includes a chair in the shape of the Rolling Stone’s tongue logo. Not sure how desirable it actually is though.
Other places like The Fridge – a performing arts and music space – were already in Dubai, and relocated to Alserkal Avenue to be part of the creative hive.
The whole place is quickly gaining international attention, which in turn is attracting bigger artists to the galleries. This might yet be the era of ‘Dubai: City of Culture.’
Of course, no arty area is complete without an instagram-worthy café and live music venue. A4 Space is the new, ‘collective space’ which offers the Appetite café, a cinema with beanbag chairs, magazines, donated books, a chill out zone and a jewellery store.
Whilst this small patch of concrete is still relatively unknown in Dubai, it provides a refreshing and unexpected injection of art and rawness, hidden away from the constant traffic roar of Sheikh Zayed road.