Dubai’s street art
Known for its skyscrapers and record-breaking bling, there’s another side of Dubai that’s making waves at the moment – the emirates’ art scene. Not restricted to galleries and studios, on almost every corner of the city, the streets are coming alive with giant murals spilling forth from the walls of malls, promenades and public buildings new and old.
These supersized works of art have been popping up across the city more and more over the last few years, and it’s a trend that’s certain to continue, thanks to the Dubai Street Museum project. This public-art initiative will see Dubai transformed into an open-air art gallery over the next five years, with the aim of preserving the UAE’s rich heritage in the most public way possible. The first phase burst into life in early 2017 in the shape of 16 colourful murals splashed over the walls of the historic 2nd December Street in Satwa – but that’s just the beginning. We take a look at the city’s most spectacular open-air canvases, prepare to be inspired…
2nd December Street
The city’s already rich landscape of public art has gaine
d a powerful new addition. The first phase of the Dubai Street Museum project was unveiled in January, and it’s a bold, joyful tribute to the Emirates’ history and heritage. Take a walk down 2nd December Street in Satwa and you’ll be able to spot 16 striking murals, each inspired by an aspect of the country’s culture and traditions. The choice of canvas is no coincidence – named in honour of UAE National Day, 2nd December Street is also the home of Union House, where the UAE was officially established on 2 December 1971. Taking their lead from the area’s historic roots, 12 artists from around the world have filled the walls with painterly odes to all things Emirati – from henna rituals to national dress. Look out for Parisian street-art star Seth’s curious children, photorealist pioneer Case Maclaim’s qahwa (Arabic coffee) close-up and Germany-based 1010’s ‘hole in the wall’ which symbolises the country in both shape and colour: yellow for sun and sand; blue for sea and sky.
Get your cultural fix with a side of shopping at the open-air urban oasis that is City Walk. It houses high-end boutiques, stylish cafés and excellent entertainment for all the family (indoor rainforest, anyone?), all woven together with an eclectic mix of art. Fifteen of the world’s best-loved street artists have stamped their signature on everything from the walls to the palm trees – the latter given a cosy makeover by yarn-bomber Magda Sayeg. Amid the uber-cool designer names (think Rag and Bone, Maje and Sandro) are a kaleidoscope of works ranging from the playful to the poetic. Australian provocateur Rone covers off the latter (pictured, opening page), and there’s no shortage of the former. We love ROA’s super-rat, Brit-art icon Nick Walker’s spray-painting unicyclist and The London Police’s robot universe, but keep your eyes peeled, too, for Slinkachu’s miniature masterpieces (you’ll know them when you see them).
It’s inevitable you’ll find yourself Downtown while in Dubai – it’s the home of the world’s tallest tower and largest mall, for starters. The pretty horseshoe-shaped Boulevard loops around both icons, taking in the majestic Dubai Opera en route, and makes for a lovely stroll, day or night. Come evening, your path is lit by rows of twinkling palm trees, but get there before dark to enjoy an impressive collection of sculptures in all their sun-soaked glory. The works, dotted all along the way, embody Dubai’s strong multicultural community. There are camels and horses from Donald Greig and Vincent Da Silva respectively – both fond emblems of Arabia – but there’s also a Stonehenge-like rock formation from Spanish sculptor Xavier Corbero and an imposing wooden torch inspired by Jaeyho Lee’s native South Korea. Perhaps the most distinctive piece is Syrian artist Lutfi Romhein’s Together: a pair of tall, graceful Arab figures – a man, crafted from white marble, and a woman, in black granite – standing proud at the foot of Burj Khalifa.
Another distinct pocket of Dubai life can be found in the city’s industrial quarter. Housed in the string of converted warehouses that make up Alserkal Avenue are some of the coolest art galleries around, all of which are free to enter. But the creative capital here isn’t confined to the gallery wall; the walkways between warehouses are punctuated by all kinds of fun diversions – from quirky light installations, murals and 3D structures to pop-up concerts and screenings. There’s also a healthy dose of café culture, should you need a pit stop.
Wander a little off the tourist trail and you’ll discover one of Dubai’s most treasured – and most vibrant – gems. Bustling Karama, best known for its fragrant curry houses and vivid fabric stalls, is an area of the city like no other. Now there’s another reason to visit, aside from fabulous eats, bargains and people-watching. Bubbling up from the street-level melting pot are 24 huge works by a range of artists including Dubai-based Fathima Mohiuddin. The exuberant murals depict everything from parrots to pearls via faraway galaxies – in perfect harmony with the colourful scenes below
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