Dubai: a city that embodies modernity, innovation, and cultural amalgamation, is making its indelible mark on the global art scene. Often overshadowed by its architectural marvels and luxurious lifestyle, Dubai’s art scene is an oasis of creativity, offering a rich palette of cultural experiences. Its galleries, cultural institutions, and local artists are propelling Dubai into the limelight as a significant hub for art in the Middle East.
A Sanctuary for Art: Galleries and Cultural Institutions
Zawyeh Gallery: Uniting Palestine and Dubai
Zawyeh Gallery, a pioneering art hub, sprouted from the roots of Ramallah, Palestine in 2013 and successfully branched out to Alserkal Avenue, Dubai in 2020. Its mission, promoting emerging and established Palestinian artists, has inspired an array of exhibitions with diverse mediums, ranging from painting and sculpture to video and photography.
Zawyeh's commitment to nurturing young talent has led to its active participation in global art fairs, including Art Dubai, MENA Art Brussels, and Contemporary Istanbul. At the core of the gallery’s philosophy is the belief in creativity as a resilient response to adversity. This ethos propels Zawyeh Gallery's influence in the international art world.
Location: Warehouse #27, Alserkal Avenue, Street 8, 390099
The AKKA Project, founded in Dubai in 2016 by Lidija Kostic Khachatourian and Kristian Khachatourian, is now a respected leader in promoting African Art. The founders' journey from art collectors to cultural entrepreneurs underscores their commitment to supporting emerging artists, fostering cultural exchanges, and offering art residencies.
Notable achievements include organizing the National Pavilion of Mozambique at the 2019 Venice Biennale, which put their Venice gallery on the map as an African Art and Cultural Hub. Today, the AKKA Project provides collectors and visitors in Dubai and Venice with a unique perspective on contemporary African art.
Location: Al Quoz 1, 1st Al Khail Road, Dubai UAE 214843
Galleria Continua, founded in 1990 in San Gimignano by Mario Cristiani, Lorenzo Fiaschi, and Maurizio Rigillo, was a beacon of contemporary art amid a landscape brimming with ancient art. Its journey from a repurposed cinema to an international art network has been remarkable.
Its global adventure began in 2004, introducing contemporary Western artists to Beijing, China. In 2007, it expanded to Les Moulins in the Parisian countryside, offering a unique site for large-scale creations. Further expansions led to the inauguration of spaces in La Habana, Cuba (2015), Rome and São Paulo (2020), Paris’s Marais neighborhood, and the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai (2021).
Today, Galleria Continua stands as a symbol of open interculturality, offering new forms of dialogue and encounters between art and the public across diverse geographies.
Location: Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah (Access to Burj Al Arab Jumeirah is by registration only.)
Efie Gallery, a contemporary art gallery founded in 2021, specializes in promoting artists of African origin from Africa and its global diaspora. Located in Al Khayat Art Avenue, the gallery has rapidly positioned itself as a leading platform for prominent African artists including El Anatsui, Aïda Muluneh, and Maggie Otieno, among others.
Embedded in the bustling Al Quoz Creative Zone of Dubai, Efie Gallery is at the forefront of fostering cross-cultural exchange between Africa and the Middle East. Its residency program stimulates local collaborations and supports artists in articulating their vision.
Efie, translating to 'home' in Twi, echoes the gallery's mission to explore the notion of belonging across diverse cultures and identities. The founders, Valentina, Kwame, and Kobi Mintah, aspire to make Efie Gallery a vibrant ecosystem for contemporary African art, where the interplay of art and music is celebrated through a unique collection of rare global records.
Location: Unit 2 Al Khayat Avenue 19th street, Al Quoz 1
Founded in 2010 in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai. Lawrie Shabibi has become a trailblazer in promoting emerging artists from the Middle East, North Africa, and the broader "Global South". Over the years, it has expanded its focus to represent artists from various regions and generations, particularly those addressing diasporic experiences.
The gallery also curates art historical exhibitions, notably showcasing works of pioneers like Mohamed Melehi and Mehdi Moutashar. It collaborates with renowned museums, successfully placing works in prestigious venues such as The Guggenheim and Tate Modern. By integrating older and younger artists, Lawrie Shabibi enriches its program, fostering a platform for underrepresented regions in the global art scene.
Location: Alserkal Avenue, Unit 21, Al Quoz Industrial Area
Established in 2007, Meem Gallery is a leading international promoter of modern and contemporary Arab, North African, and Iranian art. Running both solo and group exhibitions, it highlights regional Modern Masters and contemporary artists alike.
Meem Gallery's reach extends to global museums such as the British Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. It also runs Meem Editions, a distinguished publishing program, and hosts the Al Noor Library for Middle Eastern Art, a vast resource center with over 20,000 art-related materials. Its comprehensive art efforts firmly place Meem Gallery as a key promoter of regional art.
Location: Umm Sequim Road Al Quoz 3
Established in 2006, Ayyam Gallery has risen as a premier arts organization, managing a diverse roster of both established and emerging artists. This blue-chip art space in Dubai also participates in collaborative projects globally across the US, Europe, Africa, and Asia, aiming to broaden international art boundaries.
Aside from its gallery, Ayyam hosts a multilingual publishing division and a custodianship program that preserves the legacies of pioneering artists. These efforts contribute to documenting underrepresented aspects of global art history, further enhancing Ayyam Gallery's significant role in the international art scene.
Location: Units 11, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1, Street 8, 283174
Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery, founded in Paris in 1990, has established an international presence with locations in cities like New York, Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and most recently Dubai, with plans for a Los Angeles location. In 2022, the gallery opened a 100-square-meter space in Dubai's DIFC district, a prime location near Christie’s, Sotheby’s and other galleries. This space presents both primary and secondary market works by artists represented by the gallery. Perrotin participates in over twenty art fairs annually and has expanded its mission to include creative content such as podcasts, videos, and educational workshops.
Location: DIFC, Gate Village, Building 5, Unit 1, Podium Level Dubai, UAE
Tabari Artspace, led by an all-women team, has been crucial in connecting international audiences to the modern and contemporary artists of the MENA region and its diaspora for the past two decades. The gallery promotes lesser-known narratives and marginalized perspectives in contemporary art. The artists it represents engage conceptually with issues related to the human condition.
Being part of the cultural ecosystem in the UAE, Tabari Artspace plays an important role in identifying and advancing artistic talent within the GCC, reflecting the regional culture.
A core part of Tabari Artspace's mission is community engagement and making MENA art more accessible. The gallery has built relationships across generations, supplementing physical programming with digital events, talks, publishing, workshops, and community events. It also runs an international residency programme, which encourages regional artists to broaden their practice in new environments.
Location: The Gate Village Bldg. 3, Level 2, DIFC, 506759
Oblong Contemporary is an Italian art gallery with a mission to create a global arena for culture. It operates in both Dubai and Forte dei Marmi, Italy, with an aim to serve as a bridge between UAE and Italian cultures and art. The gallery functions as a platform for cultural exchange, displaying high-quality artworks and offering a platform for local artists. It also hosts educational initiatives, workshops, and a cross-cultural art exchange program between Dubai and Pietrasanta, Italy.
The gallery was founded by two entrepreneurial women, Emanuela Venturini and Paola Marucci. They intended for Oblong Contemporary to symbolize their combined love for art and culture and to foster a cross-cultural exchange between the UAE and Italy. The name 'Oblong' was derived from the shape, symbolizing the blend of the founders' different backgrounds and the interaction between Italian and Emirati cultures, both expressing a profound love for art.
Paola Marucci views art as a tool for social and cultural integration and seeks to bolster the art scene in Dubai and the UAE through exhibitions, workshops, and other activities. Emanuela Venturini, an architect and curator, emphasizes Dubai's vibrant art scene and aims to promote modern and international art in the city.
Location: R29 Bluewaters Boulevard, Bluewaters Island
Dubai, renowned for its modern marvels and luxurious lifestyle, is a must-visit destination for any travel itinerary, particularly for those drawn to the world of art and culture. The city's rich and vibrant artistic landscape serves as an under-explored oasis amidst its towering skyline, offering travelers a chance to immerse themselves in an eclectic mix of creative experiences.
From the heart of Ramallah to Alserkal Avenue, Zawyeh Gallery stands as a testament to Dubai's ability to connect art lovers with the vibrant world of Palestinian art. Meanwhile, AKKA Project shines a spotlight on African Art, showcasing the works of emerging artists in a setting that fosters cultural exchange. Galleria Continua, in the historical setting of a repurposed cinema, brings a unique selection of contemporary Western art, while Efie Gallery offers an insight into the African diaspora's artistic expression.
Lawrie Shabibi and Meem Gallery, both established players in Dubai's art scene, introduce travelers to a broad spectrum of artists from the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond. The expansive global outreach of Ayyam Gallery, the diversity at Perrotin, and the community engagement focus of Tabari Artspace further enrich the city's art tapestry. And, the Italian-inspired Oblong Contemporary provides a cross-cultural platform, tying the artistic narratives of Italy and UAE together.
Whether you're an art enthusiast, a seasoned collector, or a traveler seeking a deeper cultural immersion, the galleries of Dubai offer an intimate glimpse into the city's soul. As you journey through these artistic hubs, you'll witness how they collectively contribute to Dubai's reputation as a burgeoning global art epicenter. So pack your bags and get ready to explore Dubai – a city where art transcends borders and cultures converge.