Alserkal Avenue, Dubai’s vibrant arts and culture neighbourhood, in Al Quoz, is well-known for the contemporary art galleries, community art spaces, artists’ studios, and private museums located in the warehouses within the complex. Here art lovers can find works by contemporary artists from around the world, ranging from paintings, sculptures and photography to videos, installations and kinetic mechanical art devices.
But over the last few years, Alserkal Avenue has added many new creative concepts that celebrate other forms of art, such as contemporary dance, music and design studios, architects’ ateliers, innovative culinary spaces, a pop-up cinema, and a theatre. It also houses spaces that cater to people whose idea of art is a beautiful classic car, a unique piece of hand-crafted jewellery, a handwoven rug, a perfect chocolate, or even a pair of exclusive sneakers.
“Our vision has always been to celebrate creative entrepreneurship, and the new concepts at the Avenue exemplify the exploration of cultural expression and creativity in all forms,” says Abdelmonem Bin Essa Alserkal, founder of Alserkal Avenue.
Akserkal Lates, to be held on September 27 to mark the start of the new art season, is a good time to explore these interesting concepts and experiences, because the Avenue will remain open until 9pm, and come alive with many activities. These include a variety of live performances, culinary offerings, talks, workshops, guided tours of the new exhibitions at the art galleries, and other artistic and cultural activities.
Here’s a guide to some of the unique new spaces at Alserkal Avenue:
Nostalgia Classic Cars
From outside it looks like any other warehouse in the complex but step inside Nostalgia Classic Cars and you will find a beautiful collection of classic cars on display. Nostalgia is the brainchild of Jordanian, Mazin Al Khatib, who gave up his career as an investment banker to turn his passion for collecting and restoring classic cars into a business. “This showroom is the first of its kind in the UAE, and I wanted it to be in Alserkal Avenue because to me classic cars is art,” he says.
In one section of its large showroom, Nostalgia hosts themed classic car exhibitions, as well as corporate and private events. The other section is a warehouse where the rest of the company’s collection of classic cars is on display to the public. Located next door is a workshop that specialises in restoring and maintaining classic cars and is the first of its kind in the GCC region that covers body, mechanical, electrical and upholstery services under one roof. Nostalgia is also the only showroom in the region to provide after-sales service for classic cars such as registration, restoration and servicing. The collection includes rare models such as Ford Model T’s, BMW 3.0CS and CSL, AC Cobra, and Porsche 356, with prices ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.
“We want to focus on selling a reasonably priced selection of famous models to people who are entering the hobby of collecting classic cars, and we are totally geared to cater to the needs of new collectors,” Al Khatib says.
The Jewel Teller
The Jewel Teller is the place to go if you want a unique piece of jewellery, or want to learn about the process of jewellery making. It is the first company in Dubai where fine jewellery is designed, made and showcased under one roof. Susana Martins, co-founder and creative director of the company is an internationally known jewellery designer from Portugal, with experience in every aspect of the industry from goldsmithing and stone setting to product development and trend forecasting.
The in-house Portfolio collections displayed in the showroom are her designs and have been handmade by the master craftsmen working in the adjoining, fully equipped workshop. The company also works on private commissions to create bespoke jewellery. It also collaborates with leading educational organisations and designers to hold a year-round programme of pop-up exhibitions, lectures and workshops on the art and craft of jewellery making.
“This concept was developed specifically for the UAE, and for Alserkal Avenue, because we want our customers to understand the process by which jewellery is made, and see it as an art form, where each piece tells a story,” Martins says.
Sima Performing Arts
This space is home to the well-known Sima Dance Company, founded in Damascus in 2003 by Syrian dancer, choreographer and dance director, Alaa Krimed. It is the leading performance company in the Middle East, comprising talented Arab and international dancers, and a pioneer of contemporary dance in the UAE. Its many achievements include winning MBC’s Arab’s Got Talent, and being invited to perform a dance interpretation of a poem written by Shaikh Sultan Al Qasimi at the opening of the Sharjah Desert Theatre Festival.
The company has converted its warehouse into a training and performance venue, where it offers classes in various contemporary dance styles, and hosts performances by local and international artists, talks, film screenings, and other events. The programme for September includes dance sessions for parents and babies, specialised workshops, and Ballet, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Salsa, Tango and contemporary dance classes for all ages and skill levels.
Founded by architects Rany Abdin and Qais Abdelrahman, this space is designed to be a one-stop shop for the architectural, art and design community, providing them cutting edge machinery, tools, materials, private studio space, a photography studio for product shoots and meeting rooms. These facilities are available to students, freelancers, start-ups, and even individuals who simply wish to try their hand at designing something for themselves. Techarc plans to hold a variety of workshops on designing with materials such as wood, concrete and leather. “We came up with this concept because when we were students, we really wished for an interactive, creative environment like this to work on our ideas. We want this space to be a platform for design to flourish, and a hub for learning, sharing and collaborating,” Abdelrahman says.
The Good Life
This concept, launched in Beirut a decade ago, is a top tier sneaker store representing exclusive sneakers from the most sought-after brands, and has been pivotal in developing the sneaker culture in the region. The ‘art’ on display in this store-cum-event venue, includes exclusive updated versions of iconic sneakers from the 1970s and 1980s, including models inspired by Airforce One and Japanese Bullet Trains; special models on loan from the archives of leading sneaker companies and models popularised by celebrities. During the recent release of the Nike Air Max 1X Atmos ‘Elephant Print’, over a hundred ‘sneaker heads’ queued up outside the door overnight to acquire the few pairs available. In a burgeoning market, where a pair of special sneakers can fetch over $100,000 at auctions, the store discourages investors who intend to resell its reasonably priced exclusive models at much higher prices, by its policy of letting each customer buy only one pair in their size only, and insisting that customers walk out of the store wearing the pair they have bought.
“Our customers range from serious collectors to sneaker heads who just drop in to look at our collection, and to chat about sneakers. We want to create a relaxed and welcoming space for everyone, because our focus is on brand relationship, customer education, and building a sneaker community,” Ramzi Barrage, co-founder of the store says.
This is a performing arts space made by performers for performers. Since it opened in November 2015, it has hosted a variety of events such as a Capella singing festival, stand-up comedy shows, dance performances, a short film festival, workshops for all ages, and theatrical productions in various languages, including a homegrown play about life in Dubai. It is currently inviting poets, dancers, actors, comedians, filmmakers and other creatives to participate in the Short + Sweet festival.
“The Junction was conceived and built as a space where local and regional talent can thrive, where creators and performers can risk being original, where collaboration and mutual development can occur, and where an appreciation for the arts can be cultivated into bigger audiences,” co-founder Rashmi Kotriwala says.
This is a contemporary kimono and art space showcasing one of a kind, hand-crafted, Middle-East inspired kimono-abayas, and cross-cultural artworks.
The Flip Side
This is a hub for music lovers where they can find a wide selection of vinyl records. The store plans to air radio shows, and host DJ sessions, screenings of music related documentaries, music production seminars and live performances by local and regional artistes.
The Odd Piece
This is a furniture gallery specialising in original and antique pieces sourced from around the world and beautifully restored. The store also serves as a gallery for the latest collections from The Rug Company, which include handmade rugs created in collaboration with well-known designers such as Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood.
Mirzam Chocolate Factory
This heavenly smelling space houses an artisanal chocolate factory. In this glass-fronted, bean-to-bar, production facility, visitors can watch the entire artisanal chocolate production process, from the roasting of the cocoa beans to the wrapping of each bar by hand, while they buy freshly made chocolate bars, or enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.
Chef Paul Frangie has combined his passion for healthy food and his holistic approach to wellbeing in this diner-cum-movement facility. Hapi’s ‘eat, move, play’ philosophy aims to inspire the community to live better through good food, mindful exercise and active leisure. The self-service diner with an open kitchen caters to the health conscious with a menu that includes fresh juices, organic bone broth, homemade organic ice-cream, fresh salads, gluten free banana chocolate waffles and grilled meats made from carefully sourced quality ingredients. It’s an eco-friendly space with biodegradable cutlery made from corn starch, and water served on tap to avoid plastic water bottles. The movement facility offers parkour classes for all ages, conducted by ParkourDXB, and yoga sessions by Urban Yoga. There’s also a consultation room, where well-being expert Keith Littlewood offers holistic treatment for issues related to digestion, pain, sleep, hormonal imbalance, and chronic fatigue.
Wild & the Moon
This health food café serves cold pressed juices and smoothies and raw, plant-based foods and desserts that contain no processed foods, refined sugar or dairy products and are gluten free.
Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.