Words by Kate Hazel

XVA Gallery

One of the city’s first contemporary art galleries launched in 2003, XVA Gallery is a hidden jewel in Dubai’s historical Al Fahidi Neighborhood. Specialising in contemporary art from the Arab world, rather than hanging in an open blank space, works are waiting to be discovered by exploring a winding maze of cool rooms in what was previously the former home of the renowned Seddiqi family.

Celebrating and showcasing works from emerging and established artists, the XVA hosts regular workshops and lectures, creating and encouraging cultural exchange between the city’s most prominent art enthusiasts. A quaint hotel and cafe are part of the XVA, so sip on a mint lemonade and dip into some homemade hummus as you sit in the shaded, tree-filled courtyard among a cool, intellectual crowd after soaking up the art.

Al Serkal Avenue

A one-stop address for an art-filled culture fix, Al Serkal Avenue was once an abandoned lot of derelict warehouses. Now, the area is a wealth of modern art galleries, studios and exhibition spaces waiting to be explored. Wander up and down the alleyways, and you’ll find some of the city’s most prominent galleries nestled in between hip cafes (Pekoe, the Japanese bread and tea bar, is a fave to refuel and reset), coffee shops and independent retail boutiques.

Highlights include Ishara Art Foundation, a non-profit presenting the best of contemporary art from South Asia; Satellite, an event space, studio and gallery founded by Emirati artist Rami Farook and American visual artist James Clar; and the recently re-opened Lawrie Shabibi gallery, a forerunner in the growth of the contemporary art scene in Dubai. If you have time, arthouse movie theatre Cinema Akil screens a rota of critically acclaimed international indie movies, so check out their schedule.

The Third Line

While we’ve already mentioned Al Serkal, one of the most prominent galleries housed in the heart of the Al Quoz area – nearby, The Third Line warrants a special mention as one of the oldest and most influential art initiations to come from Dubai. Launched in 2005 and debuting with works by regional heavyweights Youssef Nabil and Monir Farmanfarmaian, The Third Line gallery has pioneered voices of contemporary Middle Eastern and North African artists. It is responsible for putting regional artists on a global map.

They’ve participated in fairs worldwide, including Frieze London and New York, Art Basel and Asia NOW Paris. Currently representing 28 artists, The Third Line’s focus is supporting Afro-Asian contemporary names locally, regionally, and internationally through their programme of exhibitions and curated commissions. It is worth visiting to educate yourself about the most exciting contemporary names in Middle Eastern art today.

Al Satwa

Several regional and international artists have turned the old dusty neighbourhood of Al Satwa into an open-air gallery over the past decade. The area is famous in the city for its bustling scene of roadside cafeterias serving authentic food, tailors, haberdasheries and small independent bric-a-brac shops selling anything and everything you can imagine.

Head down the main 2nd December Street and look up. See if you can spot murals featuring works from French graffiti artist Seth Globepainter, Chinese contemporary artist Hua Tunan, and Tunisian artist El Seed, all part of the Dubai Street Museum project that has since expanded across the city.

Jameel Arts Centre

Located along the creekside Jaddaf Waterfront, the Jameel Arts Centre is an independent institution supporting regional artists and creative communities with a focus on education and outreach. Positioning itself as a hub for educational initiatives, it is the first of its kind in the city.

While the space has a rich, rotating programme of curated commissions, solo and group exhibitions featuring regional established artists and site-specific installations, the institution also hosts regular tours and cultural exchanges for the art community and local schools while housing an open research library stocked with material dedicated to cultural histories of the Gulf available to the public.

Don’t leave without grabbing a bite at Teible, a Michelin Green star artisan bakery serving impressive local seasonal dishes with a farm-to-fork philosophy, and wander through the Sculpture Park outside.

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