Located in Dubai’s industrial Al Quoz, Alserkal Avenue has the upper hand on fresh marketing and local art world presence. In recent years, through an impressive expansion and the introduction of hip, novelty venues such as record stores or organic eateries alongside its art gallery mainstays, Alserkal has quickly risen to the top in terms of positioning itself as a cultural hub within Dubai’s art scene. In an effort to bring forth an enhanced sense of artistic community, as well as provide educational and cultural outreach, it’s free, two-day Quoz Arts Fest event returned for a sixth year with promising programming.
Featuring specialised dance programming from the Beirut Ballet and Sima Performing Arts through to films, workshops, stand-up comedy, an Art Shop for burgeoning collectors or casual passersby (full details on the programming here), Quoz Arts Fest also makes it is clear that children and pets ought come – a welcome change. While the sunny weather drew droves of pets and their owners, programming that elevated the two days included a live performance by Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey, any of the contemporary dance pieces, or the screenings from Cinema Akil or A4’s Cinema Room, yet it seemed that despite a full roster from 10am to 10pm, the brunt of the buzz revolved around the back lane’s food trucks.
Refueling is a necessity when indulging in cultural engagement, as is taking advantage of Dubai’s pleasant outdoor weather, but general feedback suggested that there may have been some ambiguity as to the purpose of the event. With crowds mingling in front of the plentiful munchies provided and organised by Alserkal – always a draw, as seen with Dubai’s popular Ripe Market – it was observed that the galleries who kept their doors open special for the event noted only a slight increase in art-interested footfall as much of the activity was oriented towards one sector of the Avenue.
With the slight disconnect and uneven spread of bustling atmosphere across Alserkal, some visitors expressed confusion as to what the galleries were, whether they were open, and what it is that they did, while several others admitted it was enjoyable to come with their families in tow, but indicated they are regular visitors to Alserkal on weekends or the more focused Galleries Night and Gallery Lates.
While Quoz Arts Fest pulled in a diverse crowd, it showed that there is room to further cultural exposure and education, which an event such as this offers and should be commended for. However, it is worth exploring whether, and how much, collectors, patrons and gallerists benefit from an event largely geared towards Dubai’s youth and canine populations.
Alserkal Avenue fulfills two hats – it is a commercial arts hub, with photography centres offering courses, studios and prints; art galleries offering museum-calibre works; cinemas; performances and design shops presenting top of the line pieces. But it also strives to be a community that fosters cultural development, education and a new kind of non-consumerist weekend activity for Dubai. But as noted across the Avenue – while Alserkal fills two hats, it needn’t underestimate the loyalty of its base, who will come rain or shine, Quoz Arts Fest or not.