CULTURE

Art maze

Alserkal Avenue, Dubai’s formative hub for contemporary art, continues to delight the region’s budding art aficionados with an ever-expanding portfolio of creative offerings 

Al Quoz, previously thought of as something of a Bermuda Triangle among Dubai dwellers, thanks to its maze of indistinct warehouses and similar-looking streets, is now one of the city’s most up-and-coming quarters. A complete contrast to the emirate’s more well-known luxury offering, Al Quoz’s charm lies in its back-to-basics approach and industrial façades – making it the perfect neighbourhood for Alserkal Avenue’s creative vision. The brainchild of Dubai-born Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal, the art district was conceived by combining his passion for the arts and his love of real estate development. Since its humble beginnings in 2007, Alserkal Avenue continues to expand at an impressive rate and in a number of awe-inspiring ways.

Growing with the city’s cultural community, the original layout that once featured 20 warehouses now stretches across 500,000 square feet. Not only is it home to a host of emerging and established galleries, but Alserkal Avenue has also become synonymous with homegrown cultural initiatives and inventive public spaces. The neighbourhood is now a place where everything from foreign cinema to live music, comedy and painting live harmoniously side by side in a year-round venue for creative buffs. From art fairs to workshops, markets to screenings, it is a place where eclecticism is encouraged.

Quoz Arts Fest 2020

Quoz Arts Fest returns to Alserkal Avenue this month on January 24 and 25. The eighth edition of the annual event will once again see the creative community out in full force. The free-to-attend, two-day showcase features a packed line-up of design workshops, music performances, guided walks and interactive installations. Last year’s event focused on sustainability. Under the theme ‘CTRL+ALT+ACTION’, workshops, talks and exhibitions were organised to inspire visitors to embrace change towards a better future. This year, the fair will offer a diverse arts programme under the theme ‘In Search Of…’. Expected to be the largest to date, visitors can enjoy art exhibitions, live music concerts, pop-up performances, international delights served up at the venue’s food trucks, outdoor installations and film screenings.  

To further extend its platform, Alserkal Programming was launched in 2015, offering a range of commissions, screenings, talks and exhibitions hosted by upcoming talent. Each year, the platform highlights a particular theme, and with the help of artists and professionals, the chosen concept is brought to life through wide-ranging means and perspectives. Now a hub for creatives from all around the world, Alserkal Avenue has spurred the likes of performing arts, photography, film and painting.

As a pivotal part of the arts scene in the UAE, this cultural community continues to grow at a rapid pace, offering something experimental and unexpected at every turn. From collections of fine art to unique culinary concepts, there is plenty to discover within the neighbourhood. Among the permanent residents of the now-iconic neighbourhood is Cinema Akil. Bringing film from around the world, it is the first fully-fledged arthouse cinema in the region. Although it has only been in its permanent venue for a few months, it already feels like an institution – somewhere for film fans and culture buffs to appreciate the artistry of moviemaking in a setting that elevates the ordinary viewing experience and celebrates the cinematic craft. 

Posters outside the theatre advertise indie films not normally seen on the big screens in Dubai. The venue is a response to the growing demand for a new kind of film experience in the emirates that aims to diversify the cinema scene and offer audiences access to high-quality productions from different eras while showcasing some of the most exciting new work from upcoming directors around the world. Another popular spot in the neighbourhood is The Fridge, operated as a talent management agency that works with a diverse range of musicians and performers. The organisation hosts regular shows as part of the Fridge Concert Series, which serves as a platform for fresh talent seeking exposure by entertaining audiences in the emirate with original creations.

Concrete, a striking multipurpose venue, is another of Alserkal Avenue’s more recent developments. Described as a crossroads of modular design and modern architecture, Concrete brings together a collection of reimagined warehouses that boast multiple configurations – think movable walls and translucent façades that add a new dimension to seamless indoor-outdoor experiences. It’s an exciting progression into adaptive architecture that is a first for the region. Other staples in the neighbourhood are Gulf Photo Plus, The Third Line and The Jamjar, supporting the growth of new talent in the region by hosting exhibitions and workshops all year round. Finally, ensuring that the performing arts landscape continues to evolve, The Junction, and resident dance troupe, Sima Performing Arts, also host shows at Alserkal Avenue throughout the year. 

What you can expect

  • • Jordanian-Palestinian band 47Soul will take the stage in The Yard, Alserkal Avenue, on January 24, playing traditional dabke music with electronic beats.
  • • The culinary exhibition, Bigger than the Plate, will open on January 24 in Alserkal Avenue’s Warehouse 46, inviting visitors to participate in and debate current experiments at every stage of the food system, from compost to table.
  • • Sima Dance Company will take the stage on January 24 with Ansaf, a contemporary dance performance curated by acclaimed Palestinian choreographer Alaa Krimed, which explores questions and concepts facing the Arab World.
  • • The Reel Palestine Film Festival will return for its sixth edition during the two-day event, in collaboration with Cinema Akil.
  • • A photo walk of Al Quoz and a cyanotype workshop will be organised by Gulf Photo Plus during the festival.
  • • A number of workshops will be held at The Courtyard, including the Courtyard Playhouse improv plays, a live drawing performance with Ali Razavi and an Art of Zero Waste workshop with Yasmin Sinai.
  • • An exhibition of art, culture and cuisine from South Africa will be hosted by the contemporary art gallery, Akka Project. The showcase is titled ‘Africa & the other 54 countries: Focus on South Africa’.
  • • The Short+Sweet Theatre festival – the world’s largest 10-minute play festival – will take place at The Junction.
  • • A variety of children’s workshops focusing on art and creative writing by Wisdom Warehouse, including a walking tour of the art galleries by The Jamjar, will keep junior visitors entertained.  

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