With thriving art fairs, grass-roots creative districts and the imminent arrival of the world’s biggest cultural institutions, the middle east is now a leading cultural hub. local art world luminaries take us on a personal tour of dubai to reveal what makes the contemporary art scene tick.

Art Dubai, the annual art fair and forum, opened its inaugural show in 1996 and thereby launched an increasingly dynamic arts scene that’s made Dubai the Middle East’s most visited cultural hub.

Now in its 10th year, the global art world’s key movers and shakers flock to Art Dubai to experience the fair’s innovative and groundbreaking offerings, from contemporary sculpture to classic masters from the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the USA. Over the last few years, the reinvention of former industrial district Alserkal Avenue and the arrival of Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District in neighboring Abu Dhabi (which is set to include branches of The Louvre and The Guggenheim), has shaped Dubai into a destination that neither collectors, curators nor academics want to skip in the whirl of their international arts agenda.

With a progressive edit of groundbreaking immersive practices and an appetite for the abstract, Dubai is the trendy counterpart to Europe’s historic art capitals. Modernity is key here, with innovative cultural districts providing a platform for the city’s dynamic offerings: Alserkal Avenue is home to the prolific galleries Lawrie Shabibi and Leila Heller, while Saadiyat Island houses Zaha Hadid’s Performing Arts Centre. These spaces are where political and social issues are explored through cutting-edge art and are the perfect environment for those wanting to explore and update their Instagram accounts, or for art buyers looking to collect some of the Middle East’s most innovative works.

With a scene so big, talking to those in the know is essential. So we’ve caught up with the city’s key players—from artists to fair directors—to discover the true Dubai and get tips on how to enjoy culture in the city.


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