Interview with Abdelmonem Alserkal
1. Alserkal Avenue is a family-owned organization. Can you tell us more about your family’s history and relationship to supporting the arts in the Middle East?
My appreciation for the arts, that I have acquired from my father, who is a collector, arts patron and a world traveller, is what encouraged my personal interest in this field from an early age.
As I went to pursue my higher eduction in the United States it was my continuous exposure to the International art scene, which later further developed through various travels across the globe, including the discovery of industrial areas that have become imperative to the cultural landscapes of many cities, such as Shoreditch in London, Meatpacking in New York amongst many others, including Alserkal Avenue in Dubai today.
What are the opportunities and challenges of this reality in relation to your organization’s projects? We are intrigued by the symbiotic relationship that exists between your organization and the various galleries and art spaces housed within it.
Alserkal Avenue’s core always has been to support and provide a platform for regionally homegrown creative concepts, many of whom today hold International acclaim. I remember, in 2012 Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde and Green Art Gallery were the first ones to show at Art Basel from GCC region, while Carbon 12 was the first one to participate at Art Cologne. Today, many of them carry International programmes, are invited to participate at International fairs, projects and exhibitions. Just last summer artist Charbel-joseph H. Boutros, represented by Grey Noise gallery had a show at Palais de Tokyo in Paris.There has been a growing focus on the Middle Eastern art scene, with many artists’ works being acquired by the most prominent museums and collections.
2. How does Alserkal Avenue maintain its home-grown spirit in spite of existing pressures to collaborate with mainstream and commercial spaces?
We grew together with the arts scene of the UAE, so it was natural for us to collaborate and collectively build the infrastructure for the arts by further developing the cultural landscape of Dubai with the organisations locally and regionally, such as Art Dubai, Dubai Arts and Culture Authority and others.
I remember, the first gallery to move into Alserkal Avenue was Ayyam gallery back in 2008 with others following the suit. We developed organically since then and in the past six years have attracted more contemporary art and community spaces. The organic growth and homegrown spirit will always be a core of Alserkal Avenue and and the recognition for the success solely belongs to the art galleries and all creative concepts that are a part of Alserkal Avenue, collaboration is the key, today, ideas are not possible to realise, without a mutual effort.
What does Alserkal Avenue look for when choosing a particular gallery / art space to collaborate with? What do these galleries and spaces gain from associating with your organization?
The extension will further maintain the calibre for the top talent, as we received fourfold demand for the spaces available. This is very exciting because the new space will further extend the community outlook welcoming projects that have been in the making for the past few years but waiting for the right space to incubate and grow. Alserkal Avenue’s diversification is a stepping-stone with a not-for-profit outlook, to create a balance in the new space of local and International talent.
Industrial areas across the world, tucked in the neighbourhoods with old buildings, factories, large spaces and low overheads develop to become the thriving arts hubs, attracting art creators, makers and thinkers, who develop a platform for ideation and culture production. With an additional space, Alserkal Avenue will develop into an urban area attracting various segments of the community, becoming an imperative part of the city’s creative economy.
5. Part of Asian Contemporary Art Week’s mission is to complicate categorical notions of art from Asia by representing the diversity of work coming out of the continent. Given that Dubai is a hub for artists from all regions of the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa, how does Alserkal Avenue work to represent the diversity within the region and encourage cross-cultural exchange?
Dubai has changed and evolved to become a cosmopolitan city in a very short period of time with the arts scene that is fairly young, but already serving as a commercial arts hub regionally. International interest continues to grow, last year attracting more than 70 museum groups to Art Dubai. There’s been a growing interest from important International arts institutions in the MENA region, further shaping the cultural dialogue, especially leading to WorldExpo 2020.
With time we have become a hub for the region and this is a unique achievement. Alserkal Avenue has grown in the past six years and developed a synergy of creative organisations within the industrial context, which progressed to become the centre for unconventional ideas and cultural initiatives, further fostering cultural dialogue and exchange, which we will encourage though our homegrown curatorial programming in the future.
Name: Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal
Title: Patron of the Arts & Developer of Alserkal Avenue Arts District Dubai
Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, born in Dubai, after graduating university in the United States, continued his career within real estate and other developments back in the UAE. In 2007, he was the driving force in developing Alserkal Avenue Arts District in Al Quoz, which today houses foremost contemporary art spaces and is currently doubling its size. The further development extending behind the current Alserkal Avenue is dueto open at the end of the year, attracting contemporary art galleries, not-for-profit cultural foundations, project spaces, design and fashion concepts, solidifying its presence as a cultural destination. Alserkal family has been awarded with Patron of the Arts award by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai in 2012 and 2013 for their contribution to the arts.