A firm fixture on Dubai's contemporary art scene, Alserkal Avenue enchants art enthusiasts with its diverse range of creative offerings and engaging events
Once perceived as a labyrinth by Dubai dwellers due to its nondescript warehouses and similar-looking streets, Al Quoz now stands as one of the city's most sought-after creative quarters. In stark contrast to the emirate's luxury offerings, the district's allure emanates from its simplistic charm and industrial aesthetics, rendering it an ideal locale — a blank canvas of sorts — for Alserkal Avenue's creative pursuits.
Formerly an industrial hub, Alserkal Avenue has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last two decades and now boasts a thriving creative scene. Notably, it is home to the renowned Quoz Arts Fest, which takes place annually in the emirate and features a diverse programme of live music, art, contemporary dance, performing arts, public art installations, wellness and more.
Conceived by Dubai-based Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, the avenue emerged from the fusion of his profound passion for the arts and his expertise in real estate development. When establishing this forward-thinking arts and culture enterprise, Abdelmonem said: "I wanted to make a meaningful contribution to arts and culture in the UAE and in the region."
From its modest beginnings as a solitary gallery in 2008, Alserkal Avenue quickly gained momentum, attracting like-minded ventures to its vicinity, and continues to expand at an impressive rate. Growing with the city’s cultural community, the original layout that once featured 20 warehouses now stretches across 500,000 square feet with 70 warehouses that have been repurposed into art galleries, dance studios and unique spaces which serve as backdrops for seasonal events and open-air community gatherings.
Beyond its array of emerging and established galleries — which includes the likes of Ayyam Gallery, Green Art Gallery, Custot Gallery Dubai, Gulf Photo Plus and Lawrie Shabibi — Alserkal Avenue has become synonymous with homegrown cultural initiatives. To extend its platform, Alserkal Programming was launched in 2015, offering a range of commissions, screenings, talks and exhibitions hosted by upcoming talent. It has since evolved into a hub where diverse forms of expression, spanning from foreign cinema to live music, comedy and painting, coexist harmoniously, offering a year-round haven for creative enthusiasts.
Alongside the annual Quoz Arts Fest, which concluded its 11th year in January 2024, the months of February and March saw the avenue host Alserkal Art Week, offering a week-long arts and culture programme with new installations, projects, exhibitions, art walks, community workshops and pop-ups.
A notable fixture within the neighbourhood is Cinema Akil, representing a pioneering endeavour as the region's first fully-fledged arthouse cinema. Bringing films from around the world, it serves as a haven for cinephiles seeking to immerse themselves in the artistry of filmmaking. The venue was established in response to the demand for a novel cinematic experience in the emirates, with a primary objective to enrich the local cinema landscape and provide audiences with access to high-calibre productions spanning various eras. Additionally, Cinema Akil endeavours to showcase compelling new works from emerging directors worldwide, contributing to the global discourse on contemporary filmmaking.
Another notable venue, Fiker Institute, established by Emirati author Dubai Abulhoul, serves as a gathering place for writers, readers, artists, researchers, diplomats and policymakers alike. Its extensive collection, comprising over 15,000 bilingual books, predominantly delves into politics and culture, and visitors are encouraged to critically examine their preconceptions about world history, global politics and culture through engaging with its thought-provoking resources.
Another prominent establishment in the vicinity is The Fridge, operating as a talent management agency representing a diverse array of musicians and performers. The organisation hosts regular shows as part of the Fridge Concert Series, offering a platform for emerging talents to showcase their original creations and gain exposure to audiences in the emirate. Furthermore, contributing to the ongoing evolution of the performing arts landscape, The Junction and the resident dance troupe, Sima Performing Arts, present shows at Alserkal Avenue throughout the year.