Inside Dubai’s Growing Art Scene:
The Pavilion Downtown Dubai
Samah A.
Location: Dubai, UAE

In a city where you often hear the phrase “there’s not enough culture”, the Pavilion Downtown is a breath of fresh air. The venue started life as a sales office of Emaar Properties. Emaar and Cultural Engineering and designer Abboud Malak joined forces to renovate the building and convert in to a center for culturally based programs for the community.

Pavilion Downtown Dubai

Photo: Courtesy of the Pavilion Downtown Dubai

Over the last few years there has been a growing art scene coming from local and regional artists which has helped transform the perception of Dubai as a characterless, mall obsessed city into a thriving cultural scene. This movement is what inspired the Pavilion to open its doors in February 2011; the venue’s mandate is to present programs of exhibitions and public art initiatives and works towards developing direct audience participation in its two gallery spaces. Walking through the complex you’ll find yourself admiring the retro cinema with its bean bags, the library with its books on arts and culture and the café where you can get your dose of caffeinated beverages if you happen to be using the space to work.

All this is situated just a stone throw away from the vast Dubai Mall and the glittering lights of Burj Khalifa—ironic, since these well-known places represent the other less cultural side of Dubai.

The Pavilion has ambitious aspirations; the management of the space intends to use the two gallery spaces to showcase artists and artwork in various mediums. From public art, including a 40-meter annually commissioned banner that wraps around the corner of the building’s façade, to outdoor sculptures and installations are planned.  Opening even more of the culture avenues, the Pavilion has plans to host events ranging from book launches, artist talks, film screenings, musical performances, and workshops that are intended to create opportunities to engage not just artists but also writers, students, scholars and the public. Currently in Gallery 2, Saudi-Irish artist Sami Al-Turki presents his show entitled ‘Constructakons’ which captures Dubai and its journey for growth through a split channel video and a series of large-scale photographs. Al-Turki describes the construction machines as “the soldiers that built this city” yet in his work these hulking machines stand frozen, as though they have been stopped in their tracks, immobile. Ongoing at Gallery 1 is ‘Dubai Then’, a photographic exhibition by Dutch sociologist and photographer Charlie Koolhaas. The images capture and trace the city’s journey through its growth, expansion and revival on the international stage.

Media Hype Pavilion Downtown Dubai

Photo: Courtesy of the Pavilion Downtown Dubai

My visit the Pavilion brought back nostalgic memories of a place in London’s Kings Cross called The Hub, a place where I spent many hours while working as a freelancer, using it as a mini office, coffee shop and meeting point with clients. What the Pavilion offers the likes of you and me is a space to work away from the office, to watch the type of arty movie a cinema chain would never screen, to experience art exhibitions without having to seek out galleries in the dust of Al Quoz, and beyond all that, it’s a great place to simply have a meal or coffee with friends.

While it may be considered that the 100 plus venues currently catering to the arts scene in Dubai are more than sufficient, the reality is that with new and evolving artists constantly emerging, the need and demand for the space is more likely far greater than the supply. The unique concept of the Pavilion Downtown is that not only does it offer an easily accessible venue for the artistic community; it also opens its doors to an audience with diverse interests and not necessarily those purely involved in the traditional arts scene. In essence what the Pavilion has successfully achieved is a modern day community center for both the artistic community to showcase their talent and at the same time give the general public access and opportunity to be part of the arty scene as diverse as the city of Dubai itself.

Essential Info:
Location: Emaar Boulevard, Downtown Dubai
Telephone: +97144477025
Website: For current and upcoming events and exhibitions visit
Opening Times: Mon – Sun: 09:00 – 00:00
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