Alserkal Avenue opens its official 2012 art season with new exhibitions at all twenty of its galleries and creative spaces.

Alserkal Avenue, an organically-grown, self-sustaining arts district in Dubai, is celebrating the opening of its art season on 10 September 2012. In the lead-up to this yearly event, Art Radar takes a look at the history of and future expansion plans for the area.

Community Art Night at Alserkal Avenue. Image courtesy Alserkal Avenue.

Community Art Night at Alserkal Avenue. Image courtesy Alserkal Avenue.

Located on Eighth Street in Al Quoz Industrial Area One, the Avenue is a Dubai arts district that currently houses twenty contemporary art galleries and creative spaces within a one block radius. Founded in 2007, Alserkal Avenue has successfully transformed itself into a must-see destination for art exhibition openings, young collectors’ auctions and community events and is seen as an important platform for discourse and cultural exchange.

2012 Alserkal art season: What to expect

On 10 September 2012, all of Alserkal’s galleries and creatives will open new exhibitions on the same night. Hop from Ayyam Gallery to Carbon 12Etemad and Isabelle van den Eynde, before moving on to Green Art Gallery, Grey Noise, Lawrie Shabibi and Satellite.

While these galleries feature mainly Middle Eastern contemporary art (aside from Grey Noise which places its focus on works from South Asia and Europe), each represents different artists and maintains its own identity. The spaces’ exhibitions cater for both emerging and established artists from the region, as well as those based internationally. A handful of these galleries also have a presence in other cities such as Tehran and Damascus.

Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz, Dubai. Image courtesy Alserkal Avenue.

Image courtesy Alserkal Avenue.

Image courtesy Alserkal Avenue.

During the same opening evening, the Salsali Private Museum at Alserkal Avenue will host a solo exhibition by artist Pantea Rahmani titled The Seismic Sanctuary. Having opened its doors to the public in November 2011, Salsali was reportedly the first private contemporary art museum in the Middle East focusing on contemporary Middle Eastern and international art. The museum not only houses hundreds of art works from Iranian Ramin Salsali’s private collection, but also opens up its space to exhibitions by guest collectors.

Alserkal Avenue also acts as a conducive space for other creatives, including FN Designs, which focuses on graphic and product design, Gulf Photo Plus, which offers photography classes, seminars and workshops, La Galerie Nationale, which specialises in vintage art furniture, Mojo Group, a communication agency and art gallery, Shelter, a community workspace that nurtures entrepreneurial small businesses, and Showcase, which features antique Middle Eastern furniture, jewellery and contemporary art.

Alserkal expansion: Double the Avenue

In anticipation of the growing role of Dubai as a regional and international hub for arts and culture, Alserkal Avenue has declared an expansion plan targeted to be completed in the first quarter of 2014. The current area of 250,000 sq ft will double in size to include new spaces, an events centre for up to a thousand people and parking for 500 cars. The total cost is expected to be 50 million AED (USD13 million) and will be fully funded by the Alserkal family.

“Alserkal Avenue has become the arts district in Dubai, but with the growing arts community, to proceed with its expansion has been a natural response within which we will be able to accommodate more creatives, artists, gallerists, start-ups, food facilities and many other modern business models across many creative fields,” said Mr Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal, patron of the arts and founder of Alserkal Avenue.

The expansion will double the Avenue's current size. Image courtesy Alserkal Avenue.

The expansion will also include an events space large enough for a thousand guests. Image courtesy Alserkal Avenue.

“Alserkal Avenue is an organic development,” he continues. “It is an ongoing [process] that takes time and I could never take the credit for it; I am here behind the scenes creating a framework to welcome the creatives and support their ideas and projects [that are] dedicated to the development of arts and culture. But the talent at Alserkal Avenue is what [has] made the Avenue what it is today.”

Given the enthusiasm and contribution towards arts and culture shown by the Alserkal family, it came as no surprise when they were awarded with the Patron of the Arts award by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai last April.

Two months later in June, two galleries from Alserkal Avenue, Green Art Gallery and Isabelle van den Eynde, participated in Art Basel, marking the first representation of Middle Eastern galleries into this prestigious European art fair and signalling an increasing maturity in the art market and community of the Middle East.

Mr Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal, the founder of Alserkal Avenue and a patron of the arts. Image courtesy Alserkal Avenue.

Patron of Arts Award Ceremony, April 2012. Image courtesy Alserkal Avenue.

Mr Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal is, however, happy with the pace at which art and culture in Dubai is progressing.

[I believe that] letting a space grow and enabling it to become what it can become without rushing it, is the key to success. Arts and culture is the essence of any society at any point in history or any part of the world. Culture is a part of city’s identity and contributes to the overall health, vibe and growth of the city. I am very proud of our heritage and I strongly believe in the talent of local and regional artists. Only in joined efforts can we achieve greater results.

The art season at Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue runs yearly from September to June, with a few Community Art Nights scattered throughout the year. All spaces jointly open new exhibitions.


Related Topics: art districts, art spaces, art in Dubai, art in the Middle East 

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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