Dubai, often synonymous with glittering skyscrapers and luxurious shopping, is a city that beckons travelers with an artistic and cultural sensibility to explore its hidden treasures. While the towering architectural marvels might steal the spotlight, there’s an artistic side to the city that awaits discovery. From cutting-edge art hubs to expansive galleries, interactive design districts, and mind-bending showcases fusing art and technology, Dubai offers an endless canvas for art enthusiasts. Just as the city’s skyline knows no bounds, so do the artistic experiences it has to offer.

Discovering Arty Enclaves at the XVA Gallery:

As you delve into the heart of Dubai, be prepared to venture beyond the well-trodden paths to unearth alternative, artistic neighborhoods. These pockets of creativity hide behind traditional mud exteriors and within hidden galleries nestled in cafes and warehouses. While the iconic skyscrapers define the city’s skyline, it’s in these unassuming neighborhoods that the Gulf’s art world thrives.

One such artistic haven is nestled within the historic Al Fahidi neighborhood on the banks of Dubai Creek. Here, you’ll be met with a sign that beckons you into the heart of Dubai’s burgeoning art scene – the XVA Art Hotel, home to the renowned XVA Gallery. As you navigate the labyrinthine alleys, a unique art space unfolds, dedicated to fostering discussions on art, culture, heritage, and contemporary ideas.

A Twist in the Tale at the Alserkal Avenue:

From its old-world charms to its modern-day visual delights, one should direct their attention to Alserkal Avenue, an expansive enclave spanning over 500,000 square feet within the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai. Established in 2007 by Emirati businessman and philanthropist Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, this well-kept secret enjoys reverence among the connoisseurs of the art world. Alserkal Avenue serves as a sanctuary for innovative artistic expressions, experimental approaches, and the unfettered flow of creative works. Within its embrace, it harbors a vibrant community of more than 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organizations, designers, locally nurtured and entrepreneur-led enterprises, as well as communal spaces. This inspirational art destination flourishes within the confines of formerly obsolete warehouses that once formed part of a manufacturing complex. For those in pursuit of excellence in the realms of photography, art, architecture, design, and visionary leadership, Alserkal Avenue offers an invaluable source of inspiration.

Within Alserkal Avenue’s A3 Warehouse, we head to the Ishara Art Foundation, a unique non-profit art institution in the UAE devoted to contemporary art from South Asia. Sabih Ahmed, the Director of the Ishara Art Foundation, expounds, “Founded in 2019, we are a non-profit organization nurtured by Smita Prabhakar, an Indian entrepreneur, collector, and art patron who has been anchored in the UAE for more than four decades. We firmly believe that art embodies collective thought, and in addition to supporting emerging artists, we actively foster dialogues within international artistic networks, comprising museums, foundations, institutions, galleries, and individuals.”

Get inspired at Jameel Arts Centre:

On Dubai’s inspiring art spots journey, a note-worthy destination has to be the Jameel Arts Centre (JAC) on the Jaddaf Waterfront, overlooking Dubai Creek and adjacent to the sculpture park. Known as a hidden gem for art lovers, the 10,000 sqmtr art complex opened in November 2018 and plays an important role in encouraging art appreciation among the public. It’s a free-for-all multidisciplinary space that invites people from all walks of life to witness contemporary art shows and engage through learning programs. The library at this art station is popular among artists, researchers, and curious minds, who can have free access to the vast collection of art books and reading material. JAC is the first independent contemporary art institution in Dubai and has three floors of gallery spaces, an open-access research centre and library, as well as a rooftop terrace designed for installations, film screenings, and events. The art complex is also known for its waiwai design and consists of seven sustainable, open-air gardens inspired by seven desert biomes namely: Namib, Socotra, Chihuahuan, Australian, Silk Floss, Arabian, and Spiny Woodlands.

All under one roof at the Dubai Design District:

The art circuit of Dubai is incomplete without the mention of uber cool D3 aka the Dubai Design District, which is comprised of an 11 building complex that features avant-garde design hubs, boutique brand studios, trendy fashion stores, art galleries, co-working spaces, upscale cafes, and a lot more at this prime real-estate location on Ras Al Khor Road. It stands out with a mix of street art, murals, and installation artwork spread across the premises, and it’s hard not to notice the quirky yet thought-evoking expressions that are depicted in these creative corners. It’s the venue for the Gulf’s most popular cultural and design events, such as Dubai Design Week, Sole DXB, and Arab Fashion Week. And, you’ll also find the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI) here, which is a renowned university in the region that’s known for shaping creative thinkers, designers, and innovators.

While Dubai may be known for its opulent lifestyle and futuristic architecture, there’s a whole other side to the city that awaits those with a keen eye for art and culture. Beyond the glitz and glamour, you’ll find a vibrant and thriving artistic community eager to share their creativity and insights. So, the next time you visit Dubai, peel back the layers of luxury and venture into the heart of the city’s artistic soul – you won’t be disappointed.

(Experiences courtesy: Visit Dubai )