Dubai-based arts foundation seeks to boost cultural scene

Emirati philanthropist Abdelmonem Alserkal to formalise and grow giving with new organisation

Abdelmonem bin Eisa Alserkal, the Emirati businessman behind Alserkal Avenue, Dubai’s urban arts quarter, has announced the establishment of the Alserkal Arts Foundation.

The foundation will offer commissions, residencies, grants and educational programmes, with the aim of supporting the development of Dubai’s arts scene and fostering closer cultural ties between local and international artists and scholars.

The new foundation will act as a formal structure for Alserkal Avenue’s existing nonprofit activities, bringing together strands such as its residency programme, public art commissions and schedule of curated talks, shows and events, under one banner. These will be bolstered by new initiatives, such as research grants for art practitioners focused on the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

“When I founded Alserkal, I wanted to make a meaningful contribution to arts and culture in the UAE and in the region – one that was befitting of the values of the Alserkal family,” said Alserkal. “Today we cement our commitment to fostering artistic development in the region and beyond.”

The foundation will be based in Al Quoz, the former industrial district that Alserkal Avenue has, since its establishment in 2007, transformed into a buzzing hub of galleries, nonprofit organisations, workspaces and cafes.Tenants include performing arts space The Junction, New York’s famed Leila Heller Gallery, and the locally conceived Cinema Akil, with offerings spanning visual arts, music, film and design. The avenue is also home to Concrete, a performance, events and exhibition space, built from a repurposed warehouse.

The Alserkal Arts Foundation will offer public arts commissions annually each spring, while submissions for the 2020 research grants will begin in October. Applications are open to those working in a broad range of fields – from architects to writers, documentary filmmakers and social scientists – and range from $5,000 to $10,000 in value. The first recipients will be announced in Autumn 2020.

“Giving back to our homegrown artistic community was always very important, not only for us as an organisation, but for Abdelmonem and the entire Alserkal family,” said Vilma Jurkute, director of Alserkal.

Alserkal Avenue is already home to a number of nonprofit organisations including the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, which opened in 2016 and houses a 500-strong collection of post-1960s European and US abstract art. The nonprofit Ishara Art Foundation opened this week, and is one of only a handful of international institutions focusing solely on South Asian art.