Dubai has long captured the world’s imagination with its awe-inspiring skyscrapers and ultra-modern urban design, but now city planners are looking to go a step further in encouraging an arts scene to blossom. By hosting an increasing number of cultural events and opening new gallery spaces, Dubai officials are working hard to elevate the world-class business hub into a cultural capital for the Gulf.
In recent years, the city has made strides in attracting a diverse pool of visitors by expanding its menu of arts and cultural offerings, aiming to bolster its reputation as an international destination for innovation and 21st-century design. Earlier in 2019, the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority marked its 10th anniversary by outlining plans to harbor more creative minds through the expansion of gallery spaces and providing financial incentives for artists from around the world to exhibit their work in Dubai.
Such initiatives have led to the creation of the annual World Art Dubai, a four-day festival in March offering a program packed with exhibitions, art courses, and competitions. Held in the Dubai World Trade Center, the fair provides a platform for established and emerging artists to exhibit their latest creations to global audiences in the Gulf.
Private companies have expanded their support for arts and culture events as well, creating a array of creative venues designed to intrigue visitors and encourage new perspectives on the region’s arts scene. One such event is the October 13 Art Week, hosted by the DusitD2 Kenz Hotel, where art galleries blend naturally with the building’s contemporary architectural and interior design.
“For a while, DusitD2 was considered an art hub for many artists, and we are currently working toward reviving this status,” Bassam Zakaria, the general manager for Dusit International, told TBY.
“We will be hosting an Art Week in October, dedicated to reactivating the art community in Dubai and going back to our roots of being an art-focused hotel,” Zakaria continued. “As part of this interactive Art Week, we are organizing multiple workshops, hosting some major artists, who will be live painting at the property, as well as dedicating a day for kids to get in touch with their artistic side and giving talented, young individuals the opportunity to display their skills and learn more.”
Dubai also hosts a growing number of independent and contemporary art galleries that are proving to be a major draw among both locals and tourists. The Tabari Artspace has gained prominence since opening in 2003 by hosting work from prominent Middle Eastern artists, including Lebanese painter Tagreed Darghouth, Palestinian visual artist Hazem Harb, and Egyptian modernist sculptor Khaled Zaki.
For art-lovers seeking more adventure, Dubai also inaugurated a Street Art Museum in 2016. This outdoor gallery exhibits graffiti and murals from 16 local and international artists. Some of the murals found here depict traditional Bedouin scenes involving falcons, Emirati children playing in streets, and intricate Arabic calligraphy designs.
The city also hosts a vibrant performing arts program at the Dubai Opera, which is housed in a modernist glass-steel structure built to resemble a dhow, the traditional sailing boat of the Gulf region. Jasper Hope, Chief Executive for the Dubai Opera, said that since its opening, the venue has a created world-class performance space for artists, productions, and ensembles visiting from around the globe.
“By doing as many different shows as possible and becoming as varied, as eclectic, as diverse as possible, we want to represent this cosmopolitan Emirate city that is Dubai, within this cosmopolitan country, the UAE,” Hope told TBY. “This drives us: finding things that will appeal to the audience around us.”