Outdoor art in Dubai’s public spaces catches the eye
From sculptures to street art, Dubai’s varied and vast public spaces provide fabulous locations for art and installations, much of it on show 24 hours a day. Take a stroll around the vibrant new Downtown and City Walk districts or go further afield to Alserkal Avenue and Karama to discover the city’s street arts scene.
On this spacious boulevard, a short walk from the new Dubai Opera and the Burj Khalifa, is an impressive collection of large sculptures. The works draw on themes close to the heart of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai: equestrian life, the desert landscape, and the strength of the local community. The large bronze, Life Size Andalucian I by South African sculptor Vincent Da Silva, perfectly captures the fluidity of a horse in full flight. Also must-sees are Donald Greig’s playful Camels and Al Sidra, an imposing abstract bronze by Sami Mohamed Al Saleh, from Kuwait.
Perhaps most striking of all is Together by Syrian artist Lutfi Romhein, two giant stylised sculptures of an Arab man and woman, in granite and marble, black and white, like giant chess pieces. Also check out Spanish sculptor Xavier Corbero’s Gathering, a collection of ten basalt figurines, and Korean Jaeyhoo Lee’s Chorus. Most impressive seen during the day, the sculptures are also well-lit to be viewed at night.
Local developer Meraas wanted to introduce street art to the new City Walk development and brought in 15 of the best street artists from all over the world as part of the Dubai Walls initiative. The mostly large scale (but sometimes miniature) creations add an enticing extra element to City Walk, with works that are surprising, innovative, and sometimes confronting. From D*Face’s provocative “aPOPcalyptic” technique to Blek Le Rat’s delightful stencils, Ron English’s vivid “wildstyle” and Australian artist RONE’s evocative portraits, there is something for every taste.
Arguably the standout is New Yorker Beau Stanton’s Dubai Lenticular Mural, a classically inspired work which he describes as “the most ambitious and challenging mural I’ve tackled yet”. French Tunisian artist el Seed, known for his transformative calligraphy work, is the latest addition to the space, taking over the walls of City Walk’s bio-dome, The Green Planet. Also look out for a new addition from New York stencil artist Logan Hicks in early 2017. Art lovers should allow a few hours to take in all 15 artists. There are plenty of places en-route at City Walk to stop off for a drink, a snack, or something more substantial.
City Walk will also host the Dubai Canvas 3D art festival from 1-7 March, where contemporary artists will showcase their work in the urban living space. Visitors will be able to stroll through the open-air gallery and interact with the artworks.
Karama Street Art
Bustling Karama, bordering Bur Dubai and Oud Metha, is best known for bargains – clothes, fabrics and South Asian delicacies. But following in the footsteps of City Walk, eight street artists have painted 24 huge murals on the side of 12 apartment buildings and shops in the busy district, boosting the buzz. Joining six international artists invited to participate are several UAE-based artists. One of them is Fathima Mohiuddin who lived in Karama from the age of nine to 17. “In some ways I think it’s actually a more appropriate setting for street art because it’s rougher around the edges and because it has always had a lot of actual street life,” she told The National newspaper.
Alserkal Avenue Arts District
Located in Dubai’s industrial quarter, the hip destination of Alserkal is home to converted warehouses that host many of the city’s coolest art galleries. The winter months are the perfect time to wander through the streets checking out galleries like Grey Noise, Custot, Ayyam, Lawrie Shabibi, Leila Heller, The Third Line, SPM and Carbon 12, which are all free to enter. Along the way you can check out murals and street art as well as a number of enigmatic lighting installations. There’s also plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, including organic and vegan options such as Wild & The Moon, and free outdoor screenings of movies in the main courtyard, hosted by Cinema Akil. Look out for the regular Galleries Nights as well, when all the spaces stay open until 9pm. The entertainment, food trucks, workshops and talks make for a festive vibe.
Dubai Street Museum
The latest art project to join the ranks is the Dubai Street Museum. Announced in November 2016, the avant garde initiative aims to transform parts of the emirate into an open air art gallery. In the first phase of the project, 12 artists from around the world painted 16 murals along several buildings of the historically significant 2nd December Street in Satwa, with each of the artworks showcasing the UAE’s rich history and culture.