A guide to navigating Galleries Night at Alserkal Avenue

Galleries Night at Alserkal Avenue is one of the most popular art events in Dubai but successfully navigating 15 art spaces in three hours can be tricky. Here is our guide on how to do just that.

Alserkal Avenue in the Al Quoz area of Dubai. Christopher Pike / The National
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On Monday, for the third time since the beginning of the season, the galleries in Alserkal Avenue are coordinating their openings to bring us a jam-packed, art-filled evening.

However, getting around the 13 art galleries, plus a fashion outlet and an independent music venue, in the three winding passageways that form Alserkal Avenue in only three hours takes bit of strategic planning. Here are my tips on how to do it.

Come alone or with one carefully selected friend

Although viewing several art exhibitions can seem like a social affair, Galleries Night is not the kind of place to go with your girlfriends for a night out. The most important thing to remember is that you need to cover a lot of ground – and unless you are prepared to carry a yellow flag and lead your friends with military precision, I suggest going it alone. If you have a like-minded buddy who is willing to keep up the pace, that’s a great option because, really, art is better shared.

Plan your time

Covering 15 outlets in three hours means that you have only 12 minutes in each one – less than that when you factor in the time to get from one to another. Doesn’t sound like much when you break it down like that, does it? Now you know why I am stressing the issue of timing and staying focused so much.

Don’t get caught in conversation

The key to a good Galleries Night is not to do too much talking. This can be a challenge because the event happens only three times a year and that means that most of the art crowd is out in force. Therefore, it can be the one occasion where you bump into someone you haven’t seen in ages and, naturally, you will want to stop and say hi. However, remember that the art clock is ticking. You need to master the art of greeting someone and moving on in the same breath. If you want to chat to them more, arrange to catch up over dinner later in the night.

Wear flat shoes

This is not DIFC, this is dusty Al Quoz – and veterans in the field will know that only well-worn flats will do for Galleries Night. Now, one of the events tonight will be The Cartel capsule collection launch so, ladies, we know you want to look your best. A great tip is to carry your heels with you in your bag.

Then you can slip them on for the fashion show and, if you want to hit the town afterwards or catch up over dinner with that long-lost friend, you are also good to go.

Schedule regular refreshment breaks – but keep them short

A perk of the evening is that many galleries will have a selection of nibbles and goodies for you to munch on. As the event runs from 6 to 9pm, these come in very handy as this coincides with what is generally considered the normal time for dinner. But you need to spread these visits strategically across the evening.

My proposed route

The natural layout of Alserkal Avenue will guide you through the evening, but here is my basic plan. Start with Lawrie Shabibi – it is the first gallery on the first row and not only is the art really strong but they usually have a good selection of drinks, so refresh yourself there. Then move through the first row. Salsali Private Museum and Ayyam are the two biggest galleries on the avenue, so you may want to allow a little extra time for those.

After Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde and Satellite, you will definitely need a short refreshment break, so make sure to pop into A4 community space.

They usually have live music and will be giving out free popcorn, so this is the perfect place to take stock of all the art you have already seen.

On the second row, Green Art Gallery and Grey Noise will present deep-thinking shows, so you will want to visit these first before moving on to FN Designs, which usually focuses on street art presented in a light-hearted manner, and then design gallery La Galerie Nationale for a change of pace.

This month, Mojo has art by children with special needs, so this will also provide a different taste for the art palette and transfer you nicely around the corner to enter the third row.

By this point, you are in the home straight. Only three galleries remain and they are so varied that it makes for a great finale.

Carbon 12 will offer conceptual art, Gulf Photo Plus brings you top-quality photography from across the region and, finally, Showcase usually has art with an African undercurrent and a heavy focus on tangible and sculptural art.

Showcase also always presents a delicious array of cheese on their central table so, like a good meal, this is the ideal way to wrap up the evening.