Where creative minds meet
The UAE is home to a host of inspiring spaces designed to serve the region’s burgeoning art community.
A complete contrast to Dubai’s more well-known luxury offering, the urban quarter of Al Quoz charms with its back-to-basics approach and hip industrial façades – making it the perfect spot for Alserkal Avenue’s creative vision. Since its humble beginnings in 2007, Alserkal Avenue has and 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 number of emerging and established galleries, but the area has become synonymous with homegrown cultural initiatives and inventive public spaces.
Alserkal Avenue showcases much more than just art in a conventional sense. This is a thriving community that offers something experimental and unexpected at almost every turn. From painting sessions at JamJar and film screenings at The Yard to shopping for quirky interiors at The Odd Piece, there’s plenty to pique your interest. Running until September 15, visitors can catch the last few weeks of Alserkal Avenue’s Summer Programme. Highlights include tai chi lessons and a thought-provoking series of lectures and workshops entitled Sensing Memory, which explores the connection between the senses and our personal and collective memories. Then on September 24, Alserkal Lates kicks off at 6pm to give art seekers an after-dark view of the community’s galleries, design spaces and quirky dining destinations.
Home to some of the city’s coolest get-togethers, think Fashion Forward (catch it from October 25 to 27) and Sole DXB (December 6 to 8), Dubai Design District, or d3, continues to impress with its remarkable portfolio of activities and events. Since the launch of its first phase in 2015, d3 has gone from strength to strength, offering an all-encompassing experience within a stylish space that includes everything from design institutions and offices to hospitality and retail boutiques. The area has become the stomping ground for the city’s creative crowd as well as individuals and families looking to immerse themselves in its arts and culture vibe.
Here you’ll find a range of facilities designed to encourage a neighbourhood feel – from attractive co-working spaces for hire to The Block, a recreational site along d3’s waterfront that features entertainment areas, climbing walls, an urban beach, a skate park and much more. Undoubtedly, one of d3’s most thrilling annual events is Downtown Design, running from November 13 to 16. Now in its sixth year, this leading contemporary design fair, part of Dubai Design Week, acts as a platform for the region’s trade professionals to peruse unique, high-quality designs from around the globe.
Billed as one of the capital’s most loved hubs for art and community events, Manarat Al Saadiyat encompasses Abu Dhabi’s vibrancy and cultural energy. The first artistic venue to open on Saadiyat Island, which now also boasts Louvre Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat offers a range of insightful exhibitions, talks and workshops across various venues, including a modern arts and culture centre, several gallery spaces and a theatre. Not only can visitors discover regional and international talent showcased throughout the year, but they can also explore their own creativity through initiatives that have been designed to encourage community participation.
We recommend popping into the Art Studio, a multidisciplinary space that offers drop-in sessions and classes with topics that range from art and science to figure drawing and printmaking. If you’re looking to incorporate some movement into your visit, why not try a parkour workshop or tango lessons? The weekly Music Jams sessions then bring a variety of music genres to life by supporting established and amateur musicians. Finally, enjoy the culinary delights of Larte, a cool art and gastronomic concept from Milan, which serves Italian fare alongside an eclectic mix of art, fashion and design.
Bordering the emirate’s lively creek and port district, Sharjah Art Foundation centres around three main public quarters – Al Mureijah Square, Calligraphy Square and Arts Square. Located in Sharjah’s Art and Heritage Area, a buzzing art scene has breathed new life into the neighbourhood, offering a fascinating juxtaposition between its cutting-edge cultural community and historical origins. Visitors will find a range of interactive and engaging classes on offer – with recent workshops being as diverse as creating ceramic crockery as well as studying composition in painting and cubism art techniques. The recently launched Rain Room installation is another popular attraction, as visitors wander through the immersive space in a downpour of continuous rain without actually getting wet, thanks to the innovative use of motion sensors.
For those eager to explore Sharjah Art Foundation’s series of exhibitions, highlights over the next few months include Vantage Point Sharjah 6, an annual initiative supporting regional photography, running until September 8, solo showcases by artists Ala Younis and Frank Bowling, and the March Project 2018 – featuring commissioned works developed during the foundation’s residency programme. Looking ahead in the emirate, Sharjah’s art districts also form part of the Heart of Sharjah, the largest historical preservation and restoration project in the region. The aim of the 15-year project, due to be completed by 2025, is to promote and preserve Sharjah’s Arts and Heritage Area, from restoring old buildings to transforming them into modern venues such as cafés, restaurants, hotels and art galleries.