New hub A4 by Alserkal Avenue is no artful dodger, in fact it’s a hipster’s paradise in Al Quoz.
‘Welcome to A4 by Alserkal Avenue, a space for the culturally curious.’ So reads the message boldly printed high on the wall at Dubai’s newest art space.
Alserkal Avenue, the hotbed of design, creativity and cultural diversity in the midst of the Al Quoz industrial zone, is considered by many to be the artistic hub of Dubai.
And in A4 it has found its own hub. A central point from which all other exploration of the incredible neighbourhood can begin. The hub-within-a-hub will, hope the Alserkal Avenue team, be a home-away-from-home for creators of all types.
It will, to quote from their wall once again, be a ‘space for writers to create, freelancers to work, researchers to connect, thinkers to network and artists to collaborate’. What it is not, importantly, is another art gallery. There are almost 20 galleries and creative organisations already present in the Alserkal Avenue district and the purpose of A4 is to provide something altogether more functional.
‘The galleries all around us show work from established artists. A4 is more about the emerging artists. People with ideas and passion but not necessarily the understanding about how to take it further,’ says Director of Alserkal Avenue Arts District, Vilma Jurkute. ‘This is an incubator for anybody with artistic feelings. We’re here to join the dots.’ But if it is not a gallery in the traditional sense then what exactly is A4?
In its most simple terms, the space could be viewed as a café. Anybody who has ever ‘gallery-hopped’ around Alserkal, flitting between fine art exhibition, photography forum and design workshop will have noted that this is one thing that the neighbourhood needed most of all. Instagram can be thirsty work. So the branch of Appetite Café and the accompanying Raw Coffee beverages were always going to be a hit.
But A4 is much, much more than this. The free wi-fi, spacious work tables, reading nooks, elevated solitude pods and break-out areas make it an excellent place to let creativity flow. It is an idea helped by the open plan, loft-style simplicity of the interior décor. ‘This is supposed to be a space without limitations. We want people to be able to collaborate and communicate. Be they gallery owner, exhibiting artist or student.
Anybody should be able to approach anyone and just discuss ideas. It will be a great place to network,’ says Alserkal executive, Haniya Bhatty.
But still this does not do the concept of A4 justice. Only when you have taken the tour and seen the enormous (and luxurious-looking) screening room, looked in at the designer project space and browsed the on-site STORIEs concept store, picking up trendy hipster collectables from French, Tunisian and Japanese designers as you go, will you get the real picture of what this converted warehouse will mean to artists here.
It is already becoming exactly what it set out to be. A place to inspire. ‘We want people to know that this really is a community. Whether that is as a place to get your first exhibition displayed, to host seminars, present lectures, prompt discussions, host forums, deliver training or even just have a screening or birthday party, this is a place where that can happen,’ says Bhatty.
Maybe then this is what A4 by Alserkal Avenue is. Just a blank sheet of paper waiting for the undiscovered artists of Dubai to put their own mark on.
Open Sun-Thu 10am-6pm. A4 by Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 416 1900).
One of the most interesting concepts behind A4 by Alserkal Avenue is the collection of donated books, journals and magazines. The walls between sedate reading areas on a carpeted and secluded mezzanine level are lined with bookcases. The idea is that visitors will donate a book that has inspired them in some way. It can be any book, ideally in the realm of art, design or culture. There are just two stipulations. Each visitor can leave just one book. Plus, visitors must leave a simple message on the inside of the book about why the publication inspired them. Shelves need filling so if you are thinking about visiting the venue, do take a book along. Titles already on show include Steve Jobs and Edith Piaf biographies, numerous design journals and a copy of children’s book, Miffy. #inspired?