Dubai art season: Where to see top exhibitions across the city

Time Out Dubai rounds up the best exhibitions, galleries, street art and classes

Dubai art season: Where to see top exhibitions across the city

March sees the return of art season in Dubai, celebrating artists from the Middle East and beyond over four days, and we don’t need any more reason to go all Van Gogh (without that nasty ear business).

Here, Time Out Dubai rounds up the best exhibitions, galleries, street art and classes across the city, so you can appreciate a collage that doesn’t involve an iPhone.

Inside Art Dubai

Art Dubai returns for its fifth year from Wednesday March 21 to Saturday 24, featuring a record 103 galleries from 47 countries, making the fair the largest and most globally diverse to date. Alongside 78 returning galleries, the fair will welcome 27 first-time exhibitors from around the world. As well as the usual contemporary and modern sections, this year will see the addition of a resident’s section, showcasing a selection of ten solo gallery presentations. We can’t wait to peruse the expanded assemblage.

Art Dubai Contemporary
Featuring 78 galleries from 42 countries, Art Dubai Contemporary will showcase an extraordinarily diverse range from the world’s most influential galleries and dynamic art spaces, including pieces from the Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery in London to the Ikkan Art Gallery in Singapore. And the artists are just as diverse, with household names and new talent coming together to put on something spectacular. With every art form including painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, video, photography and performance, we’re clamouring to deliver our verdict.
From Dhs60 (day ticket, from Dhs90 on the door), from Dhs100 (three-day ticket). Mar 21-23. Fort Island, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim,,

Art Dubai Modern
Art Dubai Modern has a cracking range of museum-quality works by artists from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, whose work has been influential throughout the 20th century. Artworks from galleries as far flung as London and Lisbon will sit side by side with masterpieces from Elmarsa gallery in Dubai. This year’s fair will feature 16 galleries from 14 countries with solo, two-artist and group exhibits. We are eager to cast a discerning eye.
From Dhs60 (day ticket, from Dhs90 (on the door), from Dhs100 (three-day ticket). Mar 21-23. Fort Island, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim,,

Art Dubai Residents
The inaugural edition of Art Dubai Residents will bring together artists from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia, Iran, India, Nigeria, Georgia, Germany, Spain, Lithuania and Japan. The unique programme is a space for international artists to immerse themselves in the UAE art scene and to create a body of work which merges their personal artistic style with their surroundings, before displaying their Dubai-inspired creations in the gallery during the Art Dubai Exhibitions. No pressure, folks.
Residents 2018 Workshops and Public Programming: Free. Mar 10, noon-4.30pm. In5 Design, d3,

Global Art Forum 2018
This year’s Global Art Forum will focus on the power, paranoia and potentials of automation, and is excellently titled I Am Not a Robot. The summit brings together artists, curators, museum director’s filmmakers, novelists, historians, philosophers, technologists, entrepreneurs, musicians and performers to have a good natter and hopefully say some interesting stuff about the matter at hand. This 12th edition of the summit will be programmed by commissioner Shumon Basar, with chief operating officer and futurist-in-chief of the Dubai Future Foundation Noah Raford, and Curator of Digital Culture & Design Collection at the MAK, Vienna, Marlies Wirth, as co-directors.
From Dhs60 (day ticket, from Dhs90 on the door), from Dhs100 (three-day ticket). Mar 21-23. Fort Island, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim,,

Karim Noureldin
We’ve come to expect exhibitions from all around the globe at Art Dubai, but few have done the rounds quite like the mammoth textile installations from Karim Noureldin. The artistic journey of the installation takes form across the world – originating with Karim’s Swiss-Egyptian roots, then taking shape in India where it was expertly woven, before finally reaching UAE audiences at the Art Dubai fair for the grand reveal. We do like our art well-travelled.
Free. Mar 24. The Julius Baer Lounge, Fort Island, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim,

Languages of Flowers – A Botanical Workshop
This workshop is all about becoming one with plant life and getting close to Mother Nature. Using the work of German photographer Karl Blossfeldt, participants will study forms in nature and explore an animal perspective.
Free. Mar 11, 6pm-10pm. Tashkeel, Nad Al Sheba,

Tashkeel open studio day
This is your chance to meet your artistic heroes, see their work in process and bend their ears on all things arty. The Tashkeel open studio day lets you engage with the festival artists directly, so you can find out what makes a creative genius tick, besides berets and a stationary box, that is.
Free. Sun Mar 12, 10.30am-1pm. Tashkeel, Nad Al Sheba,

The Room
The Room is an immersive, large-scale interactive installation that happens at the fair each year. This year it takes place across an extended TV studio for the daytime talk programme, GOOD MORNING GCC. You can expect daily performances and visitors across the duration of the fair, interacting with the scene and props geared towards everything from fashion and cooking to health. It also serves as an after-hours set for parties – now we’re talking.
From Dhs60 (day ticket, from Dhs90 (on the door), from Dhs100 (three-day ticket). Wed Mar 21-Fri Mar 23. TV studio set, Fort Island, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim,,

Zohra Opoku: From Paper to Fabric. Introduction to Screen-Printing
German-Ghanaian artist Zohra Opoku employs installation, sculpture and photography at the helm of her practise – and now she can help you get to grips with your own work of art. During the workshop, budding artistes will work on their own textiles, exploring Zohra’s process of screen-printing onto fabric under the guidance of the master herself. We feel it’s time for a leopard print revival.
Free. Sat Mar 11, 10am-1.30pm. Tashkeel, Nad Al Sheba,

Dubai’s coolest street art

City Walk
Visitors to City Walk can see a range of statement pieces and interactive art, all of varying sizes, from full wall installations down to miniscule pop-up model art. Artists from around the world used physical props, spray tins, stencils and gold old fashioned paint brushes to create an area awash with stunning colour. Big names from the street art world, including Rone, Eine, Nick Walker, Magda Sayeg and Blek Le Rat, have left their creative stamp in the area.
City Walk, Al Safa Street,

Iraqi British artist Marwan Shakarchi (aka Myneandyours) has been gracing walls across Dubai with his creative abilities and signature smiling clouds for a few years now, and his artistic revamp of a whole car park entrance in d3 is one of his stand-out pieces, in our opinion. A setting that previously couldn’t have been more nondescript is now a star-studded universe with neon colours, planetary marvels and some super-cool astronauts. You might say it’s out of this world…

Myneandyours has also left his mark at JBR with his Exploration of Colour installation in the middle of a roundabout, featuring three striped cylindrical structures, the tallest being four metres high, painted with geometric forms in bright colours. His graphics also adorn the walls, most notably a massive set of wings and a dumbbell among the many other murals from other artists.


Any street art-lover worth their salt needs to pay a visit to Karama. Epic murals line the buildings in what has become a focal-point of the city and the 24 pieces are a massive source of pride to the people that live here. With colossal sharks, falcons, lions and even guitars splayed the full length of 18b Street, it really is a sight to behold.
18b Street, Karama.

Dubai Street Museum on 2nd December Street is an open-air gallery paying homage to Emirati heritage and history. The works of art include a group of Emirati children hoop rolling, a creative map of the UAE, Arabic calligraphy, portraits of Emirati royals, a golden dallah (coffee pot) and more traditional imagery from the UAE. In total, 16 building facades along 2nd December Street have enjoyed the artistic spruce-up.
2nd December Street, Satwa.

Arty restaurants

To tie in with DIFC Art Nights on Monday March 19, BOCA will display the works of Jordanian artist Zaina El-Said. As a partner of The Workshop Dubai gallery, BOCA changes its art programme with the season, so you always have something fresh and new to admire as you feast. The artists featured are mainly from the MENA region, and El-Said’s paintings are a kaleidoscope of colour you won’t want to miss.
Free. Mon Mar 19, 7.30pm. Gate Village 6, DIFC (04 323 1833).

Black Tap

We don’t mind a bit of culture with our burgers, and luckily Black Tap is proficient at both. The restaurants at Jumeirah Al Naseem and Rixos Premium Dubai are both kitted out by Dubai art store Drawdeck, which used artists such as db Waterman, a collage artist based in Amsterdam, and BrainFlu, a Jordanian artist, to help with the graffiti work. The Drawdeck team then created bespoke pieces of hip-hop legends to keep in with the American theme – and what a result. The
cool urban vibe in both locations provides the perfect place to chow down on a burger and a freakshake with a side of art.
Open Sat-Wed, 11.30am-midnight; Thu-Fri, 11.30am-12.30am. Jumeirah Al Naseem, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 422 9904); Rixos Premium Dubai, JBR,


Cabin is a dedicated art café in Barsha South owned by British artist Jonathan Gent. Not only will your nostrils fill with the delicious scent of sizzling meats and fresh pastries as you enter, you might also detect the lingering scent of paint in the decorated space that doubles up as his studio. Gent, 41, from Cheshire, says, “Art and food lovers can expect both ingredients to be taken very seriously. We work with brilliant artists and we try to showcase emerging as well mid-career and established artists like Warhol or Hirst. Both our current in-house designers are from the GCC. We work with the seasons so we currently have a drawing show for winter and our spring show will be focusing on photographers from UAE and abroad.” Grab a coffee and enjoy the arty vibe.
Open Sun-Thu, 8am-5pm; Fri-Sat 8am-6pm. Maisan Towers, Barsha South (04 2447291).

COYA Dubai
Italian born artist Luca Valentini has a message for us with his latest exhibition Hero Addicted. This body of work was inspired by hero and antihero and the juxtaposition of good and evil in a three dimensional pieces. The art is an indication that people no longer differentiate the values between the two in today’s day and age. The artist also addresses the impact that mass media and social media have on society by taking iconic covers of newspapers and magazines and weaving in a mix contemporary art, street art and expressionism. The exhibition is being held at the member’s room at Time Out Dubai’s Latin American Restaurant of the Year, 2017, COYA Dubai, and sounds like the ultimate food for thought.
Free. Daily 7pm-9pm. Until Mar 26. Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, Jumeirah 2 (04 316 9600).

Take a dally down to the design district for delicious French food with eclectic artsy décor at Molecule. Admire collections in the restaurant’s ever-changing art gallery before turning your attention to the food menu – which is a work of art in itself. The selection of seafood and meats and stunning to the point that you won’t know where to fix your gaze.
Open daily noon-2am. Building 6, Dubai Design District, Business Bay (04 2454700).

Upcoming exhibitions

Hybrids, a solo exhibition by Rashid Al Khalifa
Hybrids will present a selection of wall-mounted installations from six different series from 2010 to 2017 by Bahraini artist, Rashid Al Khalifa. In his recent works, Al Khalifa maintains a focus on the re-contextualisation of an art genre, investigating varying articulations of seriality, as well as geometry, surface, and colour. Al Khalifa’s installations are “hybrids” of painting and sculpture, where he increasingly experiments with three-dimensionality using aluminium, stainless steel, and other mediums. We’re raiding the recycling bin as we speak.
Free. Until Mar 10. Ayyam Gallery Dubai, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 439 2395).

Plan for Feminist Greater Baghdad by Ala Younis
Kuwait-born Jordan-cased artist Ala Younis uses inkjet prints and drawings alongside digitally sculptured and 3D-printed models to bring to the fore the remarkable contributions made by female artists, architects and other influential characters to the development of Baghdad and its modern monuments. It sees beyond the male dominance of the city’s architecture and politics, to reveal the female influence on Baghdad’s history. The exhibition builds on, and is being displayed alongside Younis’ earlier work, Plan for Greater Baghdad, where she looks at monuments, architects, governments and the short state of empowerment they gained as politics shifted in Iraq.
Free. Until Apr 14. Project Space Art Jameel, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 323 9980).

Solo Exhibition by Jalal Luqman
Emirati mixed media artist Jalal Luqman’s works are dark, blunt and often aggressive, working the border between the modern digital and the gothic. The unique pieces are “confessions of the soul” and range from digital works to monumental sculpture that lay bare the innermost emotions of mankind. His art has taken him far and wide to the likes of New York, Japan and China, and now he is exhibiting his works on home turf. We can’t wait to have a bit of a brood.
Mon Mar 5 to Fri Apr 6. Citizen E Gallery, Building 6, d3, (04 457 2380).

The Big Cat Trails by Paws Trails
This breathtaking photography and painting exhibition features the fiercest and most powerful creatures to prowl in the wild. The Big Cat Trails is brought to DUCTAC by Paws Trails, a group of photographers, conservationists, artists, designers, writers and travellers, who have come together through their love for nature and their passion and commitment to sharing this with the public. The group are passionate about raising awareness about endangered species, disappearing natural habitats and what we can do to make a difference.
Free. Mar 9-12, 9am-10pm. The Gallery of Light, DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 341 4777).

Under, 2018 by Hale Tanger
Under, 2018 is a public installation that will open on Monday March 19 in The Yard, Alserkal Avenue. The open-air exhibition is Hale Tanger’s first major commission in the UAE, and her first outdoor show in almost a decade. Under, 2018 originates from the artist’s memory of a fictional narrative that describes an ancient hunting ploy whereby nets were stretched low throughout the forest so that the birds adapted to flying low. Once the nets were removed the birds would no longer fly high, as if they had forgotten that the sky has no limits, thus becoming easy prey for the noble hunting parties. The physical and psychological experience of Hale Tenger’s installation touches on many aspects of human behaviour and systems of control and begs the question that if birds have forgotten their ability to fly high, what have we as humans forgotten about ourselves?
Free. Mar 19-May 31. The Yard, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (050 556 9797).

Van Gogh Alive
An internationally acclaimed multi-media art exhibition bringing the works of Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh to life is coming to d3. It brings together more than 3,000 images, combined with a specially chosen classical music score. A rich array of the creative icon’s masterpieces will adorn the walls, floors and ceilings of the sprawling art space, using 40 high-definition projectors.
Dhs65 (kids up to 16, students), Dhs70 (adults). Mar 11-Apr 23. d3.,

Workshops and classes

The arts centre offers a range of courses and ongoing sessions for beginners to artistic pros including everything from oil painting and photography to De-stress with Expressive Painting sessions, which promise to clear your mind and calm your emotions by expressive and intuitive painting.
Prices vary. Sat-Fri 9am-10pm. Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 341 4777).

Lotus offers classes in fine arts, visual arts and even wellbeing. With courses in interior design, graphic design and photography, you might even forge a new career out of it. We particularly like the look of the drawing courses, which include portraits, charcoal work, oil painting and a class dedicated to drawing hands and feet.
Prices vary. Open 10am-6pm; Fri closed. Office G01, Block 13, Dubai Knowledge Park (04 391 1718).

Soul Art Centre
Soul has a dedicated schedule focusing on art empowerment, and we’re all about self-improvement. Classes include the likes of blindfold painting where you can let go of emotions through artistic self-expression to music, and Messy Times, where adults embrace their inner child and de-stress with a pot of paints. We can only imagine what the walls will look like by the time you’re finished.
Prices vary. Open Sat-Thu, 10am-10pm; Fri closed. The Residences 1, Downtown Dubai (04 551 7440).

Tashkeel runs all kinds of workshops from drawing and darkroom to contemporary geometric jewellery making. Spring camps offer more challenging and creative classes for young people, with disciplines including everything from painting to 3D sculptures.
Prices vary. Open Sat-Thu 9am-10pm; Fri closed. Street 5 and 20, Nad Al Sheba. (04 336 3313).

thejamjar is a one-stop-shop for all things art, whether you fancy dropping in for a one-off watercolour class, or dedicate yourself to one of its longer and more intensive courses. All ages are welcome and activities include everything from acrylic painting to weaving.
Prices vary. Open Sat-Thu 10am-7pm; Fri 2pm-8pm. Unit H74, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 341 7303).

Must-visit galleries

Capsule Arts
The gallery exhibits and sells limited-edition prints by regional and international artists. The boutique art company also brings bespoke art commissions to interior design projects across the Middle East including at Nikki Beach Resort & Spa, Rove Hotels and Yalumba restaurant.
Open daily Sun-Thu 9am-6pm. Business Bay, (04 446 5444).

Cartoon Art Gallery
Embrace your inner child and celebrate your favourite superhero or cartoon character at this gallery in Al Quoz. It specialises in animation, cartoonists and illustrators and you can buy as well as peruse the vibrant collections on offer. Keep an eye on Cartoon Art Gallery for various one-off events.
Open Sat-Thu 10am-6pm. 4B Street, Al Quoz , (04 346 6467).

Citizen E Art Gallery
Citizen E is a contemporary fine art gallery dedicated to the promotion and exhibition of national and international artists, as well as providing a platform for emerging talents. The gallery also holds workshops, forums and talks in design, fashion and art.
Open Sun-Thu 10am-7pm. Building 6, d3, (04 457 2380).

Drawdeck is an online marketplace making art accessible to the Middle East. It sell everything from printed t-shirts and tote bags, to cushions and original prints from artists all over the world. The art itself is affordable and cool and a browse through its website is like an interactive stroll through a gallery from the comfort of your sofa. We want it all.
Prices vary.

Gulf Photo Plus

This is heart of the photography community and definitely worth a visit for the snap-happy. The venue holds workshops and exhibitions and also sells books and camera accessories.
Open Sun-Thu 10am-7pm; Sat 10am-6pm; Fri, closed. Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz (04 380 8545).

Lumas Gallery
This space offers selected signed originals by renowned artists. With the introduction of the “liberation of art” concept, the gallery has made high-quality photographs accessible to a wide range of clientele.
Open daily 10am-10pm. City Walk, Al Safa Street (04 299 6988).

Muse Arts
Muse sells affordable fine art prints, photography and original art by emerging artists. You can find some absolute gems.
Open daily 10am-10pm. Times Square Center, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 388 1516).

Christie’s Auction
Going, going, gone! Christie’s Auction returns to Dubai this year with public viewing and serious buying getting underway with fervour in March. On Thursday March 22, the auction will have collectors going head-to-head over Middle Eastern modern and contemporary art at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. If you’re lucky, you might just snap up a bargain. And if not, you’re bound to enjoy yourself channelling David Dickenson for the day. We’re lathering on the fake tan as we speak…
Thu Mar 22, 7pm (auction), Mon Mar 19 to Thu Mar 22 (public exhibition). Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 330 0000).

Dubai Canvas
Dubai Canvas is back to transform our city into an outdoor museum and this year La Mer will become an open-air easel. Artists and muralists will be flying in from all corners of the globe for the momentous occasion that will see the beachside become awash with colour during the first week of March. As well as exhibitions, the festival will also host a range of workshops including Arabic calligraphy, butterfly wings making and denim customisation. Say no more.
Free. Mar 1-7, Sun-Thu, 4pm-10pm; Fri-Sat, all day. La Mer, Jumeirah 1,

SIKKA Art Fair
From live music and open-air film screenings to poetry readings, dance, improv, exhibitions, and large-scale artworks, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood in Bur Dubai is transformed into a hub of artistic and cultural events from emerging Emirati and UAE-based creatives for Art Week. Feeling like the edgy sister of Art Dubai, SIKKA is smaller in scale, but daringly creative. Far from a stand-and-observe type of art event, the fair gathers together a collection of risk-taking artists for a week-long schedule of events that you can really engage and interact with. It all happens around a central courtyard where you can chill out on beanbags and watch local live music.
Free. Mar 17-26. Al Fahidi Historical District, Bur Dubai,

DIFC Art Nights
DIFC Art Nights is a celebration of all things bright, colourful and creative. The next event on Monday March 19 promises art exhibitions and installations as far as the eye can see, as well as live music performances blasting out to the bustling 4,000 strong crowd of excited art-lovers. In line with the Year of Zayed, DIFC Art Nights is hosting a special exhibition presented by The Empty Quarter Gallery featuring ancient photographs from photographer Bruno Barbey, with other collections, to show how the UAE has transformed into a thriving and vibrant nation. We can’t wait to see our city’s baby photos.
Free. Mon Mar 19, 7pm-10pm. Gate Village, DIFC,

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