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French author Andre Maurois said, “Art is an effort to create, beside the real world, a more humane world.”
These words ring true for the evolution of Alserkal Avenue and its role in bringing together some of the region’s most creative minds, all in celebration of art and culture in the UAE and Middle East. It has added a much-needed dimension to Dubai’s international status, which, for the most part, has been linked to shopping and trade. Another plus in its favour: the avenue has transformed its home ground, the dusty, industrial district of Al Quoz into a hip and artsy neigbourhood.
Thanks to its growing roster of art galleries and creative concepts, Alserkal
Avenue is now recognised as a pioneering arts and cultural space where artists, gallery owners, curators and other creative connoisseurs from across the world interact, share ideas and combine resources.
Alserkal Avenue’s founder and Patron of the Arts winner (in 2012 and 2013), Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Al-serkal, says, “Alserkal Avenue is unlike any other. It is a community of creative visionaries, rising in unison with the patronage and providence of our country’s leaders, who put culture at the core of their world view.
“The breadth and reach of Alserkal Avenue as an organisation has developed alongside the galleries and creatives who have shaped Alserkal Avenue as both a destination and community over the past eight years. Together, we have contributed to the legacy of arts and culture in the region and its role in the international context.”
Since its inception in 2007, Alserkal Avenue has grown from housing some creative spaces to a multimillion-dollar expansion that will house art galleries, a black box theatre, concept stores, unique food and beverage outlets and outdoor event facilities hosting community-based cultural events and concerts.
The founder’s vision is clearly aimed at strengthening Alserkal Avenue’s status as an arts and cultural hub of international repute. The recently launched extension, which was previewed last month, encompasses 500,000 sq ft, with 50 additional creative spaces that range in size from 1,500 sq ft to 3,000 sq ft and 4,000 sq ft to 6,000 sq ft. The ambitious undertaking cost Dh50 million.
Designed by architect Philip Logan, the extension will have more than 40 new creatives and concepts in au tumn this year, with more to follow. This includes the New York-based Leila Heller Gallery, which represents artists from the Middle East and secondary market works from artists such as Robert Indiana, Ed Ruscha and Andy Warhol. It will also feature the newly established Stephane Custot Gallery, which will showcase works by contemporary artists as well as promote new artists through curated exhibitions. Besides the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, which will bring European and American post-minimal works — including photographs, sculptures and paintings from the 1960s to the 1990s and The Third Line, which represents 27 artists from the Middle East, and was looking to move to larger space.
“The interest from international galleries in Mena reflects the growth of the region’s contemporary art scene,” says Vilma Jurkute, Director of Alserkal Avenue. “Together with our homegrown galleries, they create a strong foundation for dialogue, collaboration and exchange — all central to what Alserkal is passionate about and strongly invested in.”
Other additions to the extended space include The Junction, an independent community performing arts space. Gautam Goenka and Arjun Burman, co-founders of The Junction, are excited about moving here.
“Our association with Alserkal Avenue goes back a few years,” says Goenka. “The Junction was an idea we have been toying with for a few years now and we were very clear in our minds that we wanted to partner with Aleserkal Avenue to make this dream come true. They are the hub of arts and creativity in Dubai.
“Their spectacular vision for the expansion complemented our creative goals and hence it was a good match. We were always looking for a non-traditional venue and wanted The Junction to be in an accessible location for like-minded creative people and Alserkal Avenue was the best choice.”
The Junction plans to host several events once they move into their new space, including stand-up comedy nights, women’s theatre festival, theatre workshops and classes for adults.
One of the key highlights of the extension is The Yard, an 11,000-sq-ft space that can morph into a platform for installation art or other creative concepts depending on the requirement. The Yard hosted two works of art as part of Alserkal Avenue’s March programme. Saudi-born Pakistani artist Mehreen Murtuza’s Deep Sky Object II featured a spherical, metallic object that had crash-landed in Dubai, and Seed Catcher, a living installation and exhibition that is part of Maria Thereza Alves’ Wake: Flight of Birds and People in Dubai project.
Then there’s a radio station — Cultural Radio by Alserkal Avenue, a watch gallery, design studios, a vintage car showroom and Jamjar with its DIY painting studio. Food and beverage brands such as Project Orient (the Middle East’s first homegrown chocolate brand), Good Vibes by Inked and Wild and the Moon will serve visitors everything from arti-sanal and organic delicacies to conceptual dinners and pop-up workshops.
These brands will join other well-known names in the neigbourhood such as the Salsali Private Museum, Ayyam Gallery, Carbon 12, Alchemy Project, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Green Art Gallery, Mojo, La Galerie Nationale, FN designs, Gulf Photo Plus, Identity, LMTD, Satellite, The Cartel/ Desert Fish Studio, The Fridge and Xpoze along with Alserkal Avenue’s A4 Space, which encourages writers, artists and thinkers to collaborate.
In its bid to further the legacy of art and culture in the region, Alserkal Avenue has also launched a new programme. Tairone Bastien, Programming Director at Alserkal Avenue, says it will provide local artists with additional platforms for engagement ranging from special commissions and exhibitions to future artist studios and residencies.
“We look forward to giving artists an elevated voice in the cultural landscape of Dubai and helping to share those voices internationally as the programme develops.”
Alserkal Avenue’s new home-grown programmes will develop in conjunction with regular annual events, including Galleries Night, Quoz Arts Festival and Urban Market, in addition to the shows at the Avenue’s collective A4 Space. The cultural radio project is also part of the programme.
Alserkal Avenue also has an impressive line-up for art lovers this month. The A4 space has an artist video programme, which is a series of videos represented by the galleries at the hub. Showcase gallery has a group of exhibitions of Zimbabwean artists until the end of the month. Carbon 12 is holding Sharghzde-gi, Anahita Razmi’s second solo exhibition, and the Green Art Gallery is presenting Modern Entanglements, Berlin-based Venezuelan artist Alessandro Yazbeck’s first solo show in the region, which runs until May 5.
Source: Neesha Salian, Special to Property Weekly