The Best Art Galleries in Dubai

Alserkal Avenue is the cultural centre of Dubai
Alserkal Avenue is the cultural centre of Dubai | © Rubina A Khan / Getty Images
Ridhima Sinha

There’s a reason Dubai is known as the art capital of the Middle East. The city is home to hundreds of galleries showcasing the work of both exciting new talent and international megastars.

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Art galleries in Dubai strive to both preserve and showcase local culture while exposing audiences to exciting contemporary work. Housing some of the Middle East’s most fascinating collections of fine art, sculpture, film, photography and other media, these galleries deserve to be celebrated for their ambition, accessibility to all and historical importance.

Lawrie Shabibi

Lawrie Shabibi hosts innovative exhibitions and has a friendly team of staff always ready to offer a quick tour to visitors. Artists include Asad Faulwell, whose series Femmes D’Alger pays homage to forgotten Algerian women who fought alongside their male counterparts in the Algerian War of Independence between 1954 and 1962, and Zac Ové, who works with sculpture, film, painting and photography, often combining the various media with found, cast and recovered objects. In addition to its ever-changing exhibitions, Lawrie Shabibi puts on screenings and discussions, participates in art fairs and publishes catalogues.

Jameel Arts Centre

Located on the Jaddaf Waterfront, the Jameel Arts Centre is an independent organisation that supports arts and heritage in the Middle East. Sitting inside a bright-white building made up of cubic structures with large windows overlooking the waters of the Dubai Creek, the gallery hosts solo and group exhibitions by artists such as Chiharu Shiota, whose past show looked at the journey of life and all that it entails. The centre also has several gardens; a library with books, theses and artist files in both English and Arabic; and a vast outdoor amphitheatre that hosts an array of concerts and film screenings in winter. Complete your visit by heading to the on-site café for a healthy treat.

Custot Gallery Dubai

Custot Gallery, founded by Stéphane Custot in 2016, promotes modern and contemporary art in Alserkal Avenue, the cultural centre of Dubai, and showcases the likes of Jean Dubuffet, Nicolas de Staël, Pablo Reinoso and Bernar Venet. Visitors can also see works by French artist Fabienne Verdier, as well as rare photographs by British photographer Nick Brandt, who captures East Africa’s natural world, which is disappearing due to humankind.

Carbon 12

Husband-and-wife duo Kourosh Nouri and Nadine Knotzer founded Carbon 12 in 2008, helping make Dubai’s contemporary art scene what it is today. It showcases regional and international creatives, such as Tehran-born, New York-based artist Sara Rahbar. The mixed-media artist collects vintage materials and assembles them to create contemporary textiles and sculptures, which have a strong connection with the history of the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Fann A Porter

Housed inside a converted villa in Jumeirah, The Workshop is a multipurpose space that includes a gallery, an antique shop, a café and an interior design studio. Fann A Porter, the gallery housed within, highlights local and regional up-and-coming artists in some of the most beautiful exhibitions in town. Among those represented at Fann A Porter are painter Nidal Khaddour, who takes inspiration from the “sociopolitical state around him”, and New York-based painter Juri Morioka, who finds inspiration in Zen.

Andakulova Gallery

Founded by Natalya Andakulova, this gallery specialises in art from Central Asian artists and seeks to build relationships between creatives from Central Asia and the Middle East. Inside, tourists and residents can catch a glimpse of Alexander Barovsky’s photographs, including Gypsy Madonna, a beautiful lithograph depicting a mother and child from the Mugat, a nomadic people from across Central Asia. Also on display are paintings by Timur Ernst Akhmedov from Uzbekistan, whose work is surreal and fantastical and delves into notions of identity.

The Third Line

While interning at the Guggenheim, Sunny Rahbar wondered why there weren’t many Arab and Iranian artists shown in international galleries, so in 2005, Rahbar, along with Claudia Cellini and Omar Ghobash, co-founded The Third Line, which opened with a group photography exhibition. In 2016, the gallery found a new home in Alserkal Avenue, in a vast 771-square-metre (8,300-square-foot) industrial space with two levels. Art lovers can delve into the work of Hassan Hajjaj, a London-based Moroccan artist whose kitsch colours and striking photography combine popular culture and high art. Other well-known artists represented are Abbas Akhavan, Farhad Moshiri and Fouad Elkoury. In addition to exhibitions, the gallery hosts educational programmes, a monthly book club, film screenings and pop-up shops.

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