Dubai: The renaissance of art?



Mohamed El Hebeishy

Published — Wednesday 19 December 2012

Last update 19 December 2012 3:29 am

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There is no denying Dubai is the Middle East most glamorous city. But does this go beyond glitzy shopping malls, luxurious apartments, and state-of-the-art technology and into the creative art realm?
I remember when I first moved to the city. A gallery or an exhibition opening was an event not to be missed; there were not a lot of them anyway. Today, there is a new opening or an art fair every other day; I became picky about which to attend.
One of the events I plan my calendar around is Art Dubai. The annual art festival that takes place round late March and attracts art lovers by the thousands, from the UAE as well as further afield. In its 2012 edition, Art Dubai opened its doors to 22,500 visitors; a staggering number that tells you a lot about the city’s art scene.
Art Dubai took off in 2006 and grew exponentially. Six years down the road it hosted 75 galleries coming from 32 different countries exhibiting all sorts of art from paintings and sculpting to huge jewelry made pieces and out-of-the-box installations. There is definitely something for every taste here, so book your calendar from now. March 20th to 23rd, 2013 are the dates for Art Dubai seventh edition.
Dubai art scene is not a one-event scene, even if it is as big as Art Dubai; there are on going events throughout most of the year.
Just like most cities, galleries congregate and grow in pockets. Al Serkal Avenue is one of those galleries hotspots. Built originally as a warehouse complex, Al Serkal Avenue was turned into an arts complex hosting some of the city’s most reputed and artistically daring art galleries; from The Mojo and Salsali Private Museum to Isabelle van den Eynde and FN Designs. Wonder the alleyways, which will do remind you of Al Serkal Avenue original warehouse nature, and step into some of the various galleries it hosts. Art here comes in many forms and shapes; it is not by any chance limited to drawing and painting. Pay Gulf Photo Plus a visit if you are into photography or check out The Fridge if you are keen on music.
Another arts hotspot is the DIFC. The Dubai International Financial Centre doesn’t only host a wide array of financial service providers, as one might rightly guess, but a number of galleries as well. Heads the DIFC list of galleries is the unique The Empty Quarter. Named after the Arabian Peninsula’s most famous desert, this gallery experiences the artistic dimension of photography. With the rise of digital technology and the accessibility of cameras, all of us can and do take pictures, but what The Empty Quarter displays on its gallery walls is la crème de la crème of the Middle East photography scene. The gallery gears its efforts toward promoting talents from the UAE and the broader Middle East. One of the most successful photography exhibitions it had organized earlier this year is “Women on the Verge”. Fourteen female photographers from eight Arab countries as well as Iran showcased their take on women’s life in today’s Middle East. The exhibition was such a huge success that it resonated beyond the UAE and the wider region.
But is that all what Dubai’s art scene has got to offer?
Most recently, the city’s first art-themed hotel opened its doors, though still as soft-opening. Jumeirah Creekside Hotel is a one of a kind hotel that revolves around art. It features over 480 pieces of art, the work of 52 artists from 12 Middle Eastern countries. Everywhere you will turn your head, you are bound to come across a piece of art; from artistic installations on the walls and ceilings to quirky interior designs. Can you guess where the pool is? It is on the rooftop, and it comes with a glass bottom visual from the lobby! “The idea was to create something different, something new. Art can be very culturally connecting and it’s always a brilliant linkage to travelers and the destination they travel to” commented Klaus Assmann, Jumeirah Creekside Hotel General Manager
An art-themed hotelier establishment like the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel wouldn’t have seen the light if there wasn’t an arts base already in place. But it doesn’t only stop at that. The fact that an art-themed hotel is now up and running hints on more art oriented projects yet to come, or as Klaus Assmann best puts it “We believe that the art scene will drive the city to new heights as more and more residence and visitors are looking for the cultural element.”

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