Alserkal Avenue, a clutch of galleries and spaces in Dubai’s Al Quoz, has become a focal point for the region’s buzzing arts and culture scene. Meet the team behind the transformation.
There’s something symbiotic about the crisp lines of Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal’s white kandura (robe) and the minimalist architecture of Concrete, a high-ceilinged warehouse designed by Rem Koolhaas’s OMA that occupies a central space in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue. Concrete is one of a series of warehouses – some original, some built later – in this former industrial complex that has become a beacon for the creative industries in the UAE, spearheaded by its founder. But Alserkal, who has an infectious laugh that echoes around Concrete’s interior, is quick to credit his staff. “We share the same spirit,” he says. “These are not my team; they are my family. We are creative, we think outside the box and we might be slightly on the crazy side.”
Alserkal says that his earliest memories were of escaping into different worlds as he leafed through the pages of books filled with paintings by the Old Masters. A combination of passion and opportunity led the arts patron and businessman to open Alserkal Avenue in 2008. Located on the site of an old marble factory in the Al Quoz neighbourhood, it’s flanked by dusty streets populated by a network of workshops, garages and poorly signposted businesses. Alserkal set about transforming the area, welcoming galleries, institutions and foundations. Nowadays the Avenue is often buzzing with festivals, music performances or outdoor film screenings in the winter months when temperatures allow.
The space continues to evolve as businesses, from architecture firms to cafés, move in. The family also established the philanthropic Alserkal Arts Foundation in 2019. But Alserkal is once again keen to point out that nothing would have been possible without the effort of his international team, who hail from everywhere from Egypt to Lithuania. “There was an opportunity to fill a gap,” he says of the Avenue’s beginnings. “But it was the team who shaped the vision and made it what it is today.”