When it comes to celebrating artworks inspired by techniques and ideas from the past 20 years, look no further than these top contemporary art galleries in Dubai.
Many of the contemporary art galleries in Dubai are clustered on Alserkal Avenue in the Al Quoz neighbourhood, an area that is famously a hub for creative types, small cafés and co-working spaces in the emirate. There’s plenty to discover in the neighbourhood and beyond.
Read on for where to find what you’re looking for in some of the best contemporary art galleries in Dubai.
The Third Line
An exhibition by artist Hassan Hajjaj at the Third Line Gallery in Dubai | Courtesy of The Third Line
This warehouse space is proud to represent contemporary local and international Middle Eastern artists. However, The Third Line also has a mission to get the world talking about art from the region through its alternative non-profit programmes. It has an entire wing that just publishes artists’ books – Works on Paper – and has a long list of talents associated with it, including Abbas Akhavan, Babak Golkar, Farah Al Qasimi, Hassan Hajjaj, Laleh Khorramian and Zineb Sedira, making it one of the top contemporary art galleries in Dubai.
Ayyam Gallery has been a big success in the region and has three outposts, including one in founding city Beirut. In Dubai, contemporary art fans are spoiled for choice, with offerings in both the Al Quoz and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) neighbourhoods. The latter is more of an upscale area and has been managing established and emerging talents, taking them around the United States, Europe and Asia. It’s all part of their mandate to spread art far and wide, a non-profit scheme to ensure more equal representation across the industry. They also have a multilingual publishing division and a custodianship programme that manages the estates of trailblazing artists.
This is one of the prominent galleries at the annual Art Dubai event, and they focus on the long-term development of artists from the Middle East and North Africa in particular. With co-founder and director Asmaa Al-Shabibi at the helm, they have sold works by Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Adel Abidin, Mounir Fatmi and Nick Devereux in the past, helping to keep artists earning and the public buying more of what they love. Since launching in 2011, Lawrie Shabibi has also hosted talks and screenings and published art catalogues; it is one of the most well-rounded contemporary art galleries in Dubai.
Situated in the elegant DIFC, this space hosts everything from graffiti artists to those who have designed pop-music album covers. Think George Morton-Clark, Blek le Rat and Keith Haring. Under the direction of Sylvian Gaillard, the Opera Gallery attracts the many businesspeople who traipse the walkways of the financial area, as well as fine diners who come to enjoy what’s on display before heading off to dinner in some of the gastronomic establishments that neighbour the gallery. When the doors close to the public each evening, they usually reopen to host private events in the prestigious setting.
Starting out as Ornina, a small gallery above a bookshop in Syria, this space has come a long way and is now one of the most respected contemporary art galleries in Dubai. It became Green Art Gallery when it moved to a villa in the Jumeirah neighbourhood in Dubai in 1995 and exhibited many talents from the region before they became well known. But it wasn’t until 2010 that Green Art Gallery decided to focus on contemporary art from across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Notable artists include Turkey’s Hale Tenger and Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, Iran’s Kamrooz Aram and Nazgol Ansarinia, Palestine-born Shadi Habib Allah, Pakistan’s Seher Shah and Venezuelan Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck.
One of the many galleries that make up the Alserkal community in the industrial area of Al Quoz, 1×1 Art Gallery has been around since 1996, and originally housed Indian contemporary art. Now it has grown into a huge warehouse space, and founder Malini Gulrajani has put much of the focus on Emirati and Middle Eastern talent. The works get an even bigger platform with the gallery’s participation in international fairs, museums and galleries, as well as collaborations with independent curators.
A view of Carbon 12 gallery featuring an exhibition called The Chaser, the Ambusher and the Fickle by artist Bernhard Buhmann, 2019. | Courtesy of Carbon 12
This gallery rounds up artists from around the globe to showcase a range of approaches to contemporary art. Their roster includes artists from Austria, Germany, US, UK and Iran. Under founding director Kourosh Nouri, Carbon 12 hosts exhibitions from another set of artists that will excite visitors with the variety of its media use. Look forward to artworks from André Butzer, Sara Rahbar and Monika Grabuschnigg in a combination of solo and collaborative exhibitions.
This gallery is all about showcasing talents from around the Middle East, giving those from the Arab world a platform to display their pieces and network on an international level. Since opening in Tunisia in 1994, Elmarsa has had a presence at events in Paris, Miami and Marrakech, and launched in Dubai in 2015. Elmarsa thrives on seeing its artists take contemporary art in an innovative direction, so prepare to be impressed by what you see from artists tackling subjects such as the impact of Mediterranean, African and Arab heritage on global issues. Abdulaziz Ashour, Emna Masmoudi and Omar Bey are some of the artists on the roster.
This venue south of the Dubai Creek is not only an art gallery, it’s also a hub for nurturing the artists of the future through its Tashkeel Critical Practice Programme. Many of the artworks on display belong to alumni who have roots in the UAE, including fabricators and graphic designers. Tashkeel hosts workshops on the likes of embroidery, etching and calligraphy, also encouraging discussion on the critique of artworks and how to decipher the meaning around art pieces. Since opening in 2008, it has become part of many art initiatives around the country and regularly participates in events in the promising Dubai Design District.
Artists including Caline Aoun, Fahd Burki, Joana Escoval and Lala Rukh are just a few of the artists on the gallery’s roster from across Europe and South Asia. Coming from Pakistan, since 2012 Grey Noise has been a big advocate for bringing international artists’ work to the United Arab Emirates, and the melting pot of Dubai is the top city to showcase that. Under the directorship of founder Umer Butt, they’ve taken their work to New York, Madrid, Sydney and Basel, among other great cities representing one of the best contemporary art galleries in Dubai.