What’s the art scene like?
The city has a flourishing art scene, with an ever-growing list of galleries and an impressive calendar of events including Art Dubai, an annual art fair held in March that showcases the works of over 500 artists from galleries around the world. The dynamic nature of Dubai means contemporary art is incredibly popular, although traditional art is still admired.
What can I expect to see?
Historically, art in the Middle East was based on the twirling strokes of calligraphy, the script of the holy Quran, and intricate geometric patterns called arabesque, and these remain popular among contemporary artists. Alongside artworks from Emirati, Iranian and Lebanese artists, you’ll also see pieces from artists across the globe.
Where do I find the galleries?
There are three main art areas in Dubai. In the historic Bastakiya district, you’ll find courtyard galleries flanked by bougainvillaea, while the financial district of DIFC is home to high-end galleries (and some of Dubai’s best restaurants), making it the city’s most glamorous arts destination. The industrial area of Al Quoz, meanwhile, has seen some of its warehouses converted into cutting-edge exhibition spaces. It’s here you’ll find the city’s hippest art hub, Alserkal Avenue.
The Majlis Gallery, Bastakiya
Opened in 1989 in a sand-coloured wind-tower house by expat Alison Collins, Majlis is the city’s most established gallery. It showcases modern and contemporary art from local and international artists and has an artist-in-residence programme.
XVA Gallery, Bastakiya
Another pioneering gallery in a historic house, XVA was established in 2003 and specialises in contemporary art from the Arab world and Indian subcontinent. It shares its space with a charming boutique hotel and vegetarian café.
Ayyam Gallery, DIFC
This Syrian gallery displays contemporary painting, sculpture and photography from Middle Eastern artists. It is one of the region’s most influential, with spaces in Beirut, Dubai, Jeddah, and London, along with a second gallery in Al Quoz.
The Empty Quarter, DIFC
The city’s only gallery devoted exclusively to fine art photography showcases works from emerging and established, local and international photographers. Exhibitions range from photojournalism and portraits to abstract and street photography.
Opera Gallery, DIFC
Part of an international group that includes outposts in London and New York, the gallery houses works by 50 modern masters including Picasso, Dalí and Monet, plus contemporary greats from China, the Middle East and more.
Meem Gallery, Al Quoz
This warehouse space focuses on modern and contemporary Arab and Iranian art. With access to both the private and public collections of leading artists, and a well-stocked library, this is a great place to learn more about the region’s creative leanings.
Alserkal Avenue galleries, Al Quoz
This complex is home to ten contemporary galleries, including Ayyam Gallery, Carbon 12, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Grey Noise and Green Art Gallery, along with creative organisations like Gulf Photo Plus.