From its beginnings as a neglected warehouse district to one of the Middle East’s hottest emerging creative hubs, Dubai's arts district Al Quoz has come a long way. The district’s mishmash of artists, warehouse workers, creatives and gym junkies offers up one of Dubai’s truly authentic experiences. Its central hub, Alserkal Avenue, offers edgy art events, endless pop-up concepts, cutting edge galleries, and now even a small theatre.
Middle East’s hottest emerging district
Alserkal Art District has emerged as one of Dubai's most influential enclaves. What started out as a small block of warehouse spaces housing 20 art galleries has morphed into a 500,000-sq-feet urban hub fusing art, food, fashion and music with a comprehensive programme of cultural events like Art Dubai and Art Nights. When completed, Alserkal Art District will host more than 94 contemporary spaces, including the multi-purpose Rem Koolhaas-designed Concrete Project Space by world-famous Dutch architects OMA, due to be unveiled in the beginning of 2017.
One of the main purposes of the district is to not only to start conversation around art in the region but to create a similar vibe to that found in artistic neighbourhoods around the world, such as London's Shoreditch and Manhattan's Meatpacking District.
The first space to open in Alserkal Art District in 2008 is Syrian-owned Ayyam Gallery, which is one of the biggest players for its bold approach to issues confronting the region. Renowned for its support of Syrian artists whose works tackle topics such as war and identity, the gallery opened its second space here earlier this year.
The Third Line represents Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, who last year, become the first Iranian artist to show a solo exhibition at the Guggeinheim Museum in New York. That exchange continues with the opening of Leila Heller Gallery last year, the first New York gallery to open in Dubai.
The Green Art Gallery is home to contemporary and emerging artists, from the Middle East, Turkey, South Asia and beyond. It actively launches artists in the region, and has contributed to making Dubai the cultural heartbeat of the Middle East.
The new movers and shakers in the art district are just as worthy of attention. El Seed, the first studio for local 'calligraphiti' artist eL Seed, has opened as Dubai's appreciation for street art reaches peak hype. On the other end of the spectrum, a private collection of European and American post-minimal works from the 60s through to the 90s can be viewed at Jean Paul Najar Foundation.
Art meets fashion and design on the avenue, with visionary Dubai creative powerhouse The Cartel offering exhibitions between the racks of clothes, which explore the relationship between art and fashion. On the other side of the avenue, M.A.D. Gallery Dubai offers an equally curious exploration of kinetic art and mechanics.
They will soon be joined by Chi-KA for kimono-style abayas and Scandinavian design and lifestyle boutique Ikon House, which opened in January. You’ll have to wait a little longer for The FlipSide, our first store dedicated to vinyl records and deco custom-made jewellery workshop The Jewel Teller, both coming soon.
Grab a bite
Amidst the multitude of pop-up restaurants that ingest the area throughout the year, A4 gallery offers a permanently connected café and creative work-space. Cold-pressed juice and health snack bar Wild and The Moon joined the permanent cafés recently, serving up raw, plant-based breakfast and lunch options alongside turmeric lattes. Also on the menu for the near future at Alserkal Art District is Hapi, a lifestyle concept fusing nutritious bites and exercise, and coffee house Nightjar, which will include a “people's kitchen” and a customised espresso bar, as well as a regular music programme. Once open, the Middle Eastern-themed Mirzam Chocolate Factory will invite sweet-tooths to experience the ins and outs of artisanal chocolate production.
In the area
For a warehouse district, there is plenty going on. Around the corner there is one of Dubai’s famous coffee haunts Tom and Serg, popular on weekends with local crowds. And on the street backing onto Alserkal Avenue, you will find the indoor trampoline centre Bounce. Drop the kids and then go to one of the many monster gyms and sporting centres in the area like Rock Republic’s indoor climbing area, Adventure HQ at Times Square, the urban 24 Fitness gym or The Warehouse Gym.