Dubai art district to double in size

Alserkal Avenue, the heart of Dubai's grassroots creative scene, will double in size thanks to a Dh50m development project.

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DUBAI // It is the UAE’s answer to New York’s West Chelsea and London’s Hoxton... industrial districts that have become homes to thriving art scenes. And now Alserkal Avenue at Al Quoz industrial area is going to get a whole lot bigger.

Plans were announced yesterday to double its size by demolishing an adjacent marble factory and replacing it with purpose-built units to be used as galleries and studios.

Alserkal Avenue has grown steadily since 2007 with the support of entrepreneur Abdelmonem Alserkal. The expansion plan is a response to increasing demand for space and is due to be completed in 2014, with the entire Dh50 million cost being met by the Alserkal family.

At present, half of the avenue’s 39 warehouse spaces are used for cultural purposes and a further 62 units ranging in size from 93 square metres to more than 650 sq m are to be created in the new extension. There will be an events centre large enough to hold 1,000 people, and the project will increase the avenue’s total area to 92,000 sq m. There will also be parking for 500 cars.

“I think this is the natural growth of the art community that was born in this area,” said Mr Alserkal. “It will add an extension of the art community in Dubai where artists, galleries and art lovers can get together and share their concerns.

“I know from travelling abroad that businesses are moving out of areas that used to be industrial, that used to be rough, and it is becoming trendy for artists to move in. It gives a nice feel to artists to be in such open spaces in an industrial area.”

He said the galleries and artists who had moved to the district deserved the praise for its growth, adding: “I think the risk was taken by the art galleries who came and invested here. OK, we had the vision, but they are the ones that put in their money and believed in this area. They are the ones that should be given the credit for investing here.”

The plans include a private museum to display items from the family’s collection.

“We are forming a fund to invest in international art and local art,” added Mr Alserkal. “The existing art we have is mostly international and mostly has to do with Arabic calligraphy and Arabic and Islamic design.”

He said Emirati artists would benefit from the expansion, and he and his team were discussing how this would be achieved.

Collector Ramin Salsali, who last year opened his own private museum at Alserkal Avenue, welcomed the prospect of competition from the rival institution the Alserkal family planned to open.

“I love the competition,” he said. “I congratulate Mr Alserkal and his family and hope that other people will do the same.”

The extension announcement was made on the opening day of the Art Dubai international fair. Fair director Antonia Carver said: “Alserkal Avenue has rapidly become a must-visit destination within the region’s cultural landscape, housing some of the Middle East’s most dynamic art spaces and contributing to Dubai’s reputation as a contemporary art hub.”

The initiative was welcomed by existing gallery owners. Sheikha Wafa Hasher Al Maktoum, creative director of the Fn Design Studio, said: “I think it’s very exciting, the expansion will bring more galleries and more people. I think it’s going to be fantastic once everyone comes in and the expansion happens, it’s going to bring more recognition to the area.

“It’ll be good not just for Emirati artists, because Dubai is a mix of cultures, and I think it should be promoting every artist from around the world who is living and working here.”

Emmanuel Catteau of the Portfolio gallery said: “This is very good. They’re going to double their size and I’m going to double the size of my gallery as well to benefit from the increased traffic. I want to enjoy it and be part of it.”