Alserkal Avenue, hidden away in Al Quoz, is a hub for Dubai’s art scene. With events, exhibitions, concerts and lectures going on all year round, it’s the place to go if you feel like filling your life with culture. If you haven’t been yet, or if you’ve never even heard of it before, here’s everything you need to know about this cool, creative hub.
1. A new district is born Alserkal Avenue was founded in 2007 by Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, an Emirati entrepreneur and art enthusiast who wanted to help Dubai’s creative scene grow. It has gone on to become one of the biggest cultural districts in Dubai, spread across a collection of warehouses in the centre of Al Quoz. That might not make much sense at first. You might think of Al Quoz as home to nothing but dusty streets, industrial buildings and car showrooms, but it’s also been an artistic place for a while, too. One of the first art galleries to open in Dubai, Total Arts, is also in Al Quoz, located in The Courtyard.
2. There’s plenty to see and do in the area The first venue to open its doors in Alserkal Avenue was Ayyam Gallery, which specialises in works by emerging international artists, also has spaces in DIFC and further afield, in Beirut. Alserkal Avenue was originally set out over 92,000 square feet, but there in 2015 it was expanded and is now 500,000 square feet of art galleries, concert venues, theatres and cafés.
3. It has a little bit of something for everyone Whether you want to check out some contemporary paintings by local artists or see a photography exhibition, you’ll be able to find a gallery that will cater to your interests. There’s Gulf Photo Plus, which is Dubai’s only dedicated photography centre, which runs workshops and courses on everything from photographing food to using Photoshop. There’s also MB&F M.A.D. Gallery – M.A.D. stands for Mechanical Art Devices, and you’ll find a collection of watches and elaborate sculptures in this space. The Odd Piece is full of antique and modern furniture, while Green Art Gallery showcases Modern Arab art from across the Middle East. And there’s so much more to find, with more than 94 venues currently in the Avenue.
4. Art also comes in the form of music In Warehouse #5 you’ll find The Fridge, home to Dubai’s biggest talent management agency. It has singers, musicians, dancers and acrobats on its books, and it also hosts concerts and shows within its event space. Catch regular performances by local and international artists throughout the year, from Jordanian rock bands to classical composers.
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5. There are some fabulous places to refuel Wandering around the district, you’ll no doubt work up an appetite, and there are numerous places in Alserkal Avenue where you can stop, rest and grab a bite to eat. Wild & The Moon serves up healthy dishes, smoothies, and cold-pressed juices – everything is made from fresh fruit and vegetables, and you won’t find any gluten or processed foods in any of its meals. A recent addition to Alserkal Avenue, Mirzam Chocolate Makers, produces gourmet chocolate bars in its factory on site. Go along and watch the whole process, from sorting cocoa beans to wrapping the chocolate.
6. Watch out for the dedicated events The Alserkal Avenue calendar is filled all year round with gallery openings, markets and so much more. Alserkal Lates happens regularly throughout the year. It’s when all the galleries stay open later than usual, with dedicated area tours so you can see everything Alserkal Avenue has to offer. Quoz Arts Fest, a celebration of arts and culture in and around Al Quoz is another popular event, the next one is taking place from Friday January 27 to Saturday 28. It’s free to attend and there will be a line-up of music, workshops, performances and interactive installations for you to check out.
7. Try to keep up with this progressive space There are new venues opening up at Alserkal Avenue all the time, with at least seven already lined up for the next few months, bringing everything from new art to classic cars to the area. One such planned opening is The Flip Side, Dubai’s first independent vinyl shop. Run by local musicians and DJs, it is likely to become a hub for the emirate’s music scene, as well as a place to go to find out about new music from around the world. Also set to open its doors is Tech-arc, which promises to be a “creative hub” for designers, full of cutting-edge technology and tools for them to turn their ideas into a reality. There’ll soon be a new place to grab a coffee without feeling guilty about it, too, in the form of the Nightjar Coffee shop, which sells specialist coffee and supports small and emerging roasters.
8. Local theatre also has a presence The Junction is the UAE’s first independent black box theatre. Set up by a group of Dubai actors and directors, it opened in November 2015 and can seat up to 158 people. Anyone can rent out the space and it has staged A Streetcar Named Desire, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, a festival of short films based on Shakespeare’s plays and so much more. As well as the main performance space, it has a rehearsal room and a library housing more than 500 scripts. .