"A breath of our inspiration / Is the life of each generation / A wondrous thing of our dreaming / Unearthly, impossible seeming — / The soldier, the king, and the peasant / Are working together in one / Till our dream shall become their present / And their work in the world be done." — extract from 'Ode' by Arthur O'Shaughnessy
Alserkal Avenue is one of our absolute favorite corners of Dubai. From unique and trendy cafes offering up coffee on artisan levels of perfection to music venues and film destinations, Alserkal Avenue is the cultural playground every Dubai resident should spend some time in. As a cultural epicenter, Alserkal’s many warehouses also host various artists – both local and in the wider region – as well as rare arts and fascinating areas of craftsmanship for any discerning wanderer.
Thanks to Alserkal, the cultural arts scene has been growing exponentially in Dubai. Artists of every kind — musicians, theater artists, filmmakers, visual artists, chocolatiers, perfumers, and so many more — have found their sanctuary within the district. With a strong belief in cultivating young artists, mentorship programs, artist residencies, and continuing arts education for the next generation, it’s no wonder that all those blessed with creative talent find solace in what has become their natural habitat.
As of September 19, Alserkal Lates has united its artists and warehouses and brought to our community a fresh, new wave of exhibitions from top talent locally and within the MEASA region. Galleries throughout the Avenue opened their doors to receive guests from 10 am to 10 pm on September 19 and give the gift of art that we have been yearning for while in isolation.
One resident artist, Emirati Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, spent lockdown in isolation at his studio in Khorfakkan, forcing him to create from even deeper levels of his conscience. The powerful result of his creative journey became Drum Memory and can now be seen through a series of new paintings and sculptures at the Lawrie Shabibi art gallery housed in Alserkal.
In Every Soiled Page at the Ishara Foundation, by exploring the surfaces in which immaterial substances like memories, traces, imprints and songs reside, the artists somehow create a tactile and collective relationship to things such as reading and resistance. Featuring works by several artists such as Anju Dodiya, Astha Butail, and Neha Choksi, and a newly-commissioned performance-installation by Inder Salim (cleverly titled Every Page Soiled), the evocative exhibit draws one in through its specificity and its universal truths.
And in Find Your Colours, the brilliant photography exhibit created by JOTUN and Gulf Photo Plus after they sent out an open call asking photographers “Where do you find your colors in Arabia?” is nothing short of breathtaking. The showcase resulted in 21 images hand-selected by Rana Khadra, Sofiane Si Merabet, Moath Alofi, Noha Zayed, and Mohamed Somji. Each image depicts an exceptionally unique perspective of Arabia at once relatable, emotional, and beautiful.
Alserkal’s pièce de résistance would have to be the most anticipated exhibition of the year, which was postponed in March due to COVID-19. New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca School of Art Archives finally opened in Concrete during Alserkal Lates. The Moroccan artist, Mohamed Melehi, is regarded as “a major figure of post-colonial Moroccan art and of transnational modernism.” Curated by Zamân Books and Curating, New Waves brings forth chronological works by Melehi that have never been seen before. Works that include documentary photography, murals, and graphic design repaint an image of the pioneering artist into a multi-faceted art teacher, cultural activist, designer, and painter.
Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, founder of Alserkal and of Alserkal Arts Foundation, says, “New Waves is an expression of an ‘invisible history’ that has shaped the MEASA region both intellectually and aesthetically. This presentation to international audiences in Dubai furthers our commitment as a Foundation, and as a family, to keep such artistic legacies alive.”
Inspired by the murals of the Asilah Festival which Melehi founded in 1978 and still takes place today, and his championing of liberating visual art from the gallery and bringing it to the people, world-renowned artist, eL Seed, invited the public to paint a mural of a Melehi quote in Alserkal where his own studio resides. The quote says: “Any type of art you see, if you used it as a way of communication, a way of awakening attitudes, it could help broaden minds.”
Not only are the new exhibitions awaiting your exploration, but local favorites, like Emirati artist Mohammed Kazem, whose work is hosted in the Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde, also remains open to visitors. Kazem is known for his innovations in visually depicting difficult images, and his most recent work has put photos that he took on construction sites in Dubai and Jeddah to canvas.
However, it might be the last chance to see Zawyeh Gallery’s moving collection of Palestinian Art: Resilience and Inspiration by prominent Palestinian artists such as Hosni Radwan, Isam Bader, and Wafa Hourani. The provocative exhibition creates a wordless cry that is felt upon entrance to the gallery. We recommend going sooner rather than later so as not to miss this well-curated and poignant show.
Finally, don’t miss Carbon 12’s closing week of its summer group by various artists depicting their yearning to return to life as we knew it during the pandemic lockdowns. But that’s not all for Carbon 12.
Opening very soon on September 28th, the gallery will usher in Philip Mueller’s solo exhibition, The Last Days of Soft Machine, in which he explores the Black Flamingo Sad Boys after they embarked on a journey to a deserted island, indulging in all of life’s pleasures at the anti-beach resort, Beach Resort Tiberia.
You can visit the latest exhibitions from Saturdays to Thursdays, between 10am to 7pm at Alserkal Avenue. Additionally, if you are still anxious to return to public spaces, you can watch virtual tours and engaging interviews on alserkal.online or via its Instagram account. All warehouses require you to respect social distancing measures and to wear masks, and they kindly ask you to please sanitize often.