We often hear people complain that only thing missing from the UAE is culture. But is this really a fair proclamation? For the last decade, we’ve seen the country explode with a variety of up-and-coming galleries and artistic hubs. Just last night, the industrial area of Al Serkal revealed the opening of several new art galleries, with the creative center nearly doubling in size since its inception in 2009.
Meanwhile, in Abu Dhabi, the Saadiyat Cultural District is in the process of creating an international cultural platform initiative with the construction of the infamous Louvre and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi projects. What’s more, the relentlessly curious can also choose to hop on a short plane ride and find themselves in Beirut, Tehran, Doha, Kuwait, Jordan, or Bahrain for alternative regional art fixes. With so many interesting creative spaces around the region to explore, we’ve selected the top galleries across the region guaranteed to give you a hearty dose of thought-provoking art.
Started in Damascus in 2006 and now with spaces in Beirut, Dubai, London, and Jeddah, Ayyam Gallery is a pioneer in nurturing Syrian art. The gallery is also best known for its efforts to document the underrepresented aspects of art history on a global scale.
DIFC and Al Serkal Avenue
Tel: (+971) 4 323 6242
Leila Heller Gallery
Since the Leila Heller Gallery opened its doors in Alserkal Avenue last November, it has become the largest gallery in the UAE and features three state-of-the-art exhibition spaces. The gallery is dedicated to supporting the practice of regional and international artists, and features innovative curatorial and educational programs to promote engagement or dialogue.
Tel: (+971) 56 829 8026
Mojo Art Gallery
The gallery focuses on exhibitions that explore contemporary themes in original mediums, including conceptual photography, digital media, sculptures, and illustrations.
Tel: (+971) 4 347 7388
Located in Dubai’s Financial Center, RIRA aims to engage and encourage interest towards the developing art movement within the Middle East, with a particular focus on Iranian art. RIRA maintains a mission to provide and strengthen the platform for artists in Iran to exhibit their works both regionally and internationally.
Dubai International Financial Center
Tel: (+971) 4 369 9339
The Third Line
Over 30 artists are represented at The Third Line, one of Dubai’s first and most compelling spaces for contemporary Middle Eastern art. Currently on display is Hassan Hajjaj’s La Salle de Gym des Femmes Arabes, which celebrates strong and spirited Arab women in his vision of Moroccan pop culture.
Tel: (+971) 4 341 1367
Tucked away in Dubai’s historic district of the Al Fahidi neighborhood, XVA is a leader in curating contemporary works by the region’s most up-and-coming artists. Exhibitions aim to reflect the cultural identities and perspectives of the artists while challenging the preconceptions of visitors.
Tel: (+971) 4 353 5383
Sharjah Art Foundation
Since 2009, Sharjah Art Foundation has been committed to supporting the development of a flourishing arts environment in the Gulf through its range of contemporary art projects, residencies, production grants, commissions, and the Sharjah Biennial program.
Al Mareija, Al Shuwaihean Area
Tel: (+971) 6 544 4113
Beirut Art Center
Located in the industrial area of the city near the Beirut River, the Beirut Art Center includes an exhbition space, book store, and auditorium, all of which are dedicated to promoting contemporary art in the city.
Jisr El Wati
Tel: (+961) 1 397 018
Beirut Exhibition Center
A stunning addition to Beirut’s waterfront district, the facade of the Beirut Exhibition Center reflects the city’s changing landscape, while its interior promotes the appreciation of contemporary art throughout Beirut and the region. The exceptional space features exhibitions from projects created on-site, gallery collaborations, traveling shows, and ample public art programs.
Tel: (+961) 1 962 000 ext. 3941
Before the civil war broke out, the Sursock Museum was the epitome of Beirut’s arts and cultural scene. Now after a seven-year renovation and expansion, the museum has completely transformed into a destination for modern and contemporary art with a mission to collect, preserve, and exhibit a diverse selection of work from both local and international artists.
Greek Orthodox Archbishopric Street
Tel: (+961) 1 202 001
Arab Museum of Modern Art
A centerpiece of modern and contemporary Arab art in Qatar, the Arab Museum of Modern Art (MATHAF) celebrates the achievements of Arab artists through exhibitions in painting, sculpture, and photography.
Education City, Doha
Tel: (+974) 4402 8855
Boom Art Gallery
This non-profit gallery in Tehran is best known for displaying exhbitions by world-renowned Iranian talents such as Abbas Kiarostami and Mahmood Sabzi.
No. 11, West Armaghan St. Valiasr Avenue
Tel: (+98) 21 2201 7549
Shirin Art Gallery
With branches in New York and Tehran, Shirin Gallery is dedicated to establishing an international context for Iran’s modernist art movement. In Tehran, the gallery showcases established talents as well as bi-weekly exhibitions by up-and-coming artists.
No. 9, 18th Street Velenjak
Tel: (+98) 21 8834 3969
Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts
Gain an appreciation of contemporary Jordanian painting, sculpture, and pottery at this small yet impressive space. The gallery highlights contemporary art from the Middle East and beyond with exhibitions serving as an influential introduction to Islamic art.
Hosni Fareez Street
Tel: (+962) 6 463 0128