Secret Cities: Dubai

A Cutting-Edge Guide from the Brothers Shabib

Over 70 galleries from 30 countries are descending upon Dubai this week for the fourth annual Art Dubai—the most influential fair within the MENASA region. Local twin brothers Rashid and Ahmed Bin Shabib are proving to be two of the most eminent young entrepreneurs on the resident art scene. Returning home after their studies in the US and the UK, the brothers launched Brownbag, an e-commerce portal for young designers across many spheres, from furniture and jewelry to chocolate. Following its success they unveiled a bi-monthly urban lifestyle magazine, Brownbook: Royalties in the Middle East, now distributed globally. The brothers, who describe themselves as “hardcore in the cultural industry within the Emirates,” also spearhead Shelter, a creative community replete with a cinema, library and brasserie. “Dubai is such a 22nd-century city in the 21st century, but within it you have many organic upcoming businesses that are really making a difference and transforming the level playing field,” Rashid explains of their “grassroots” arts community in Al Quoz—the industrial wasteland where galleries and design houses have set up camp in old oil houses. “We’re developing our own style that’s a bit Liverpool street culture, slash Singaporian, slash Harajuku,” he laughs.


The Third Line Gallery
Since opening in November 2005, the gallery has “transformed the art scene by nurturing emerging artists like Shezad Dawood, as well as supporting more established ones like Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. Third Line is out there at art fairs like Frieze and Cologne, so they offer their artists a great platform.”

“An upcoming design studio and gallery that cultivates artists like James Clar and UBIK, whose mediums fall more in the industrial design field—picture development, lighting and instrumentals.” The associated store peddles high-end wares from companies such as Artek, Vitra and Established & Sons.

The Cuadro Fine Art Gallery
Located in the DIFC village, a lively enclave of culture in the heart of the financial district that houses galleries, restaurants and a wealth of designer boutiques, Cuadro exhibits top international artists and support those from the Middle East such as Sameer Tabbaa.

The Empty Quarter Gallery
Also in the DIFC village, this gallery “mish-mashes it up, focusing regionally on fine art photographers and globally staging exhibitions that break down barriers of nationality and genre.”  (A good example is last year’s exhibition on Eve Arnold’s film Behind the Veil).

Katrin Greiling
“A great up-and-coming industrial designer, interior architect and occasional photographer who we have been working with to develop a collection of furniture.” Greiling has also developed pieces for the Bidoun Lounge sponsored by Bidoun magazine at Art Dubai.

Dxb Lab
“This architecture practice does fantastic commercial work, such as the Guggenheim Pavilion and the Code building. Their spare style in the contemporary vernacular has earned them a reputation as ‘the Tadao Ando of the region.’”

Meydan Racecourse
Near Al Quoz design district, this is the exciting new site for the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup, which will be inaugurated on March 27.


Villa Moda
The Middle East’s answer to Barneys “straddles the line between mainstream and independent.” The Dubai branch of the mini-chain (there are outposts in Bahrain, Damascus and Qatar, as well as the original store in Kuwait) at the DIFC village sells international cult designers like Proenza Schouler and Nicholas Kirkwood, as well as local talent such as Reem and Hind Ali Beljafla.

Started by three friends who wanted to bring an alternative shopping experience to the city, the store stocks the hippest of contemporary labels including cool-girl favorites 3.1 Phillip Lim and Vanessa Bruno.


The Rivington Grill
The only sibling of the acclaimed restaurant in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood serves fusion cuisine and classic Brit favorites like fish and chips, while the walls feature work by local artists in association with members-only Tashkeel gallery.

The Brazilian-themed bar at the Address hotel  (the hippest of the five star hotels that have sprung up around Dubai) serves tapas and cocktails while a DJ spins Latin music. “Sitting on the terrace, you have the best view of the beautiful Burj Khalifa tower while the sun sets.”


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