The emirate of Dubai is home to a wide range of great contemporary art galleries, featuring artists from all over the world. This small selection offers a snapshot into some of the best work coming out of the UAE and wider region right now.
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)
Formerly known as Artspace Dubai, Tabari Artspace was set up in 2003 by collector Maliha Tabari. Her aim was and has always been to promote Middle Eastern art to a global audience, helping to build emerging artists’ careers within the region and further afar. The gallery is based in Dubai’s upscale financial district, offering a programme of regular exhibitions and representing artists like Lebanese painter Tagreed Darghouth, Palestinian visual artist Hazem Harb and Egyptian Modernist sculptor Khaled Zaki to name a few.
“As our geographical borders blur in our era of mass migration, art has the ability to capture and communicate key social issues that are relevant for all,” Tabari writes on the gallery’s website.
“We now welcome a new wave of Middle Eastern artists that uphold an international outlook. A generation that seeks change and progress.”
Nearby, around DIFC, art-lovers will also find the photography spot The Empty Quarter, Cuadro Fine Art Gallery and Dubai’s branch of the Opera Gallery – all of which are well worth a visit.
Fann A Porter
This small contemporary art gallery displays a diverse range of emerging international and regional artists in a quaint villa in Jumeirah. The Fann A Porter gallery has a busy schedule, hosting regular exhibitions, non-profit events, auctions and a community programme, all within its space at The Workshop Dubai. There, you’ll also find an antique gallery, design studio and café as well as a store selling everything from custom-made furniture to objets d’arts. Ultimately, it’s a meeting place for like-minded collectors and art enthusiasts.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
Dubai’s only boutique art hotel is also home to a small little gallery that showcases work by all sorts of Middle Eastern and African artists. This year, the team has held exhibitions by Iraqi artist Halim Al Karim, whose work has also appeared in international collections such as England’s Victoria and Albert Museum and France’s L’Institut du Monde Arabe. Iran-born, globally renowned artist Samira Abbassy has also been showcased in the gallery this year.
The hotel is based in one of Dubai’s most well-known historical districts. There, visitors can sample vegetarian delicacies from the courtyard café or bed down for the night in a cosy, Arabian-inspired room.
The decades-old Majlis Gallery and heritage-focused Alserkal Cultural Foundation are also based in the same area. Every March, Sikka Art Fair, one of the main and most prominent initiatives under the Dubai Art Season, is held in the neighbourhood.
The Third Line
The Third Line art gallery is based in one of Dubai’s most creative neighbourhoods. It showcases contemporary Middle Eastern artists both locally and internationally while hosting various exhibitions through the year, as well as non-profit programmes to boost interest in art from the region. Abbas Akhavan, Farah Al Qasimi, Huda Lutfi, Rana Begym and Tarek Al Ghoussein are just a few of the artists the team works with. It also publishes and sells books by associated creatives in the region, such as Cosmic Geometry, an extensive monograph on the late, great Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, which was co-edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist, the artistic director at London’s Serpentine Galleries, in 2011.
Also at Alserkal Avenue, travellers will find many great galleries that focus on work from the region, such as Ayyam, Elmarsa and Lawrie Shabibi, as well as others that have a wider lens, like New York’s Leila Heller Gallery and the Custot Gallery.
Nad Al Sheba
As Nad Al Sheba is in an older part of the city, Tashkeel is a bit out of the way for most travellers. Despite this, it is well worth the trip because it focuses heavily on local artists and boosting the UAE’s arts industry. Founded in 2008 by Sheikha Lateefa bint Maktoum, Tashkeel is comprised of multi-disciplinary studios, workspaces and galleries that allow emerging artists and members to practice, experiment and meet up with fellow creatives. It also acts as a platform for these artists to showcase their work to the wider community. Exhibitions, training, residencies, workshops, talks, publications and international collaborations are all born out of this creative hub.