The Art Scene of Dubai

The emirate of Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf, has a capital that is one of the wealthiest cities in the world. It has taken only 40 years for Dubai to transform itself from a peaceful fishing village to a huge metropolis of towering skyscrapers, six-lane highways, shopping malls and hotels. Most people enjoying Dubai holidays 2013 will see their Arabian destination as a place of luxury, bling and conspicuous consumption. They do not think of Dubai as a centre of arts and culture, but the city has many galleries, museums and exhibitions that bring art to the large and cosmopolitan population. The city also holds several annual art fairs.

Art Dubai

For the past seven years, Dubai has played host to an annual international art fair that displays contemporary art from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. In 2013 the fair presented art from 30 different countries in 75 galleries. Art Dubai is held under the patronage of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and is sponsored by both local and international companies. The fair is held in March every year, and takes place in Madinat Jumeirah. This is a five-star beach resort with many features including a souk, conference centre and arena, all connected by a network of waterways. It is located in the popular Jumeirah Beach area, and stands near the iconic Burj al Arab hotel, whose distinctive ship’s sail design is often used as a logo and symbol of Dubai.

Dubai Art Week

In conjunction with the Art Fair, many cultural events are held around the city. One of these is Design Days Dubai, an exhibition dedicated to contemporary design objects and furniture that is held at a venue next to Dubai’s newest landmark, the Burj Khalifa. This towering, needle-shaped skyscraper is the tallest building in the world. Art Week includes many other events, held in galleries, museums, universities and hotels around the city.


Inaugurated in 2011, SIKKA is an art fair that showcases the work of Emirati artists. These are the local people of the UAE, who are outnumbered by expats and make up less than 20 per cent of the population. SIKKA covers not only the visual arts, but film, music and performing arts.

These art fairs and cultural events provide a platform to showcase the art that is produced by the residents of this dynamic region, and to encourage its continuing creation.

Image by Jackie L Chan used under creative commons licence