- Middle East
- United Arab Emirates
- Helen Armitage
Dubai, the United Arab Emirates’ second largest city, has, in recent years, become one of the Middle East’s foremost cultural capitals and boasts an impressive community of contemporary art galleries. From the masters of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art to up-and-coming talents and emerging international artists, our updated guide to Dubai’s Best Contemporary Art Galleries will ensure you make the most of the city’s vibrant arts scene.
Mottahedan Projects, launched by avid art collector Mohammed Mottahedan in 2011, has been going from strength to strength over the last four years, with a momentum at once discreet and powerful. What makes the space stand out is its unconventional approach to artists and works exhibited: by guaranteeing the purchase of exhibited works, Mottahedan Projects allows its artists, both emerging and established, to approach exhibitions with a freer sense of direction. This philosophy doesn’t surprise: after the gallery opening, Mottahedan was quick to assert that ’Artists who do unconventional things are the ones that make it’. With Iran’s Mojgan Endjavi-Barbé now involved in the curation process, the gallery has its finger on the pulse of contemporary art across the Middle East.
A successful contemporary art gallery that first opened its doors in 2003, Artspace is committed to the promotion of contemporary Middle Eastern art and boasts an elite international clientele including prominent private collectors, architects, interior designers and diplomats. Aiming to put the work of Middle Eastern artists on the map, the gallery works in close collaboration with international art houses and auctions and in 2012, gallery managing director Maliha Al-Tabari opened a second Artspace in London to further foster dialogue between East and West. Artspace’s latest exhibition, Digital Recycling, is the brainchild of talented Egyptian painter Mohammed Tama.
Artspace, Level 2, The Gate Village Building 3, DIFC, Dubai, UAE, +971 4323 0820
Cuadro Fine Art Gallery
Situated within the Dubai International Finance Centre, Cuadro Fine Art Gallery was founded in 2008 and quickly established itself as one of the United Arab Emirates’ foremost contemporary art galleries. Focusing on four key areas of activity – exhibitions, education, residency and consultation – the gallery works closely with art collectors, presenting a series of lectures and discussions and offering studio space to artists via its artist residency programme. This programme has previously hosted the Saudi Arabian conceptual artist Manal AlDowayan. Currently, Cuadro Fine Art Gallery is exhibiting the Baku-based artist Faig Ahmed’s project Fluid Forms, a series of new works featuring his trademark hand-woven rugs.
Cuadro Fine Art Gallery, The Gate Village Building 10, DIFC, Dubai, UAE, +971 4425 0400
Established in the spring of 2011, Lawrie Shabibi is a relatively new addition to Dubai’s contemporary art scene but has quickly become an important institution, participating regularly in international art fairs including PULSE New York and Art International Istanbul. Located in the Al-Quoz district and operated by owners William Lawrie and Asmaa Al-Shabibi, the gallery represents a diverse repertoire of artists from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia with a focus on innovative, up-and-coming talent. A recent exhibition, Act & Application, focused on bringing together artists from across the globe in a project exploring the diverse modern use of photography.
Lawrie Shabibi, Unit 21, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai, UAE, +971 4346 9906
With past exhibitions featuring works by Middle Eastern masters such as ground-breaking Iraqi painter and sculptor Shakir Hassan Al Said and M’hamed Issiakhem, Meem Gallery has established itself as once of world’s premier venues for modern Middle Eastern art. From 2010 onwards the gallery, which was founded in 2007, has also exhibited many works of innovative contemporary art and boasts the privilege of presenting Iraqi-Canadian artist Mahmoud Obaidi’s first solo exhibition in Dubai. In 2014, Meem Gallery was proud to present Independent, a solo exhibition featuring Jerusalem-born Steve Sabella’s photographic works, and will also exhibit pioneering Iraqi painter Dia Azzawi at the Frieze London art fair.
Meem Gallery, Umm Suqeim Road, Dubai, UAE, +971 4347 7883
Recognising the potential of Dubai’s burgeoning contemporary art scene, gallery owner and director Amel B. Makkawi set up Art Sawa in 2008. Makkawi’s vision was to provide a platform on which regionally based artists could exhibit their work and participate in the city’s vibrant arts community. Over the years, Art Sawa has grown to represent and promote artists from the Middle East and North Africa and works hard to foster interaction with contemporary art on both a regional and international level. Recent exhibitions have included works by Syrian sculptor Mustafa Ali and Damascus-born painter Sara Shamma.
Art Sawa, Gate # 8,Gate Village, Al Sa’ada Street, Dubai, UAE, +971 4386 2366
Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
Founded in 2005 as B21 – an art space dedicated to dialogue and cultural exchange – Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde underwent a change of and later, in 2011, a relocation to the Al-Quoz district. Since then, the gallery has become one of Dubai’s most ground-breaking contemporary art galleries. The gallery represents a core group of emerging and established artistic talents and aims to promote their work internationally via collaborating with major museums and art biennales. In 2013, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde was proud to add to its repertoire the acclaimed Dubai-based conceptual artist Hassan Sharif, alongside fellow talents such as :mentalKLINIK, an artist duo from Istanbul working with installation.
Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Street 8, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai, UAE, +971 4323 5052
Originally launched in Lahore in 2008, Grey Noise relocated to Dubai in 2012. Under the directorship of founder Umer Butt, the gallery has earned itself a revered reputation within the international arts community as a space for innovative and progressive art. With an interest in a wide range of works and specific focus on Middle Eastern, South Asian and European art, the gallery represents both established and emerging talents who produce works representative of their local cultural context. Talents represented at Grey Noise include Irish photographer, sculptor and video artist Michael John Whelan and Lebanese artist Caline Aoun.
Grey Noise, Unit 24, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai, UAE, +971 4379 0764
Founded in 2006, Mojo Gallery was established with the purpose of acting as a multifunctional space that brings together the disciplines of art, design and new media, focusing on emerging contemporary artists and placing specific emphasis on conceptual works of art. The gallery recently hosted a group exhibition, Turmoil x 4, featuring the works of four up-and-coming artists – Heba Al Ansari, Iman Hasbani, Wedad Alnasser and Hany Rashed – exploring their interpretation of political conflict, and often hosting artist-led workshops for budding artists.
Mojo Gallery, Unit 33, Al Serkal Avenue, Dubai, UAE, +971 4347 7388
The Third Line
A contemporary art gallery focusing specifically on Middle Eastern artists, The Third Line was established with a dual purpose – to represent Middle Eastern talents locally, nationally and internationally and to host non-profit exhibitions designed to stimulate interest in art in the local area. The gallery has been instrumental in developing the profile of Dubai’s art scene internationally and represents some of the Middle East’s most respected artists, including Iran’s Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmain and her stunning glass mosaic sculptures, Kuwait-born photographer Tarek Al-Ghoussein and Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum.
The Third Line, Street 6A, Dubai, UAE, +971 4341 1367