Jameel Arts Centre’s Antonia Carver On Dubai’s Creative Scene

Antonia Carver recommends the coolest hubs for culture connoisseurs

Among Dubai’s first flush of contemporary art galleries, Jameel Arts Centre is raising the bar on the Middle Eastern creative scene. Its inventive programme of engaging exhibitions and high-profile collaborations fiercely champions local talent. Antonia Carver left her post as Head of Art Dubai to helm Jameel Arts Centre, with the gallery’s inaugural show, Crude, raising provocative questions about the oil industry. Here, she shares why Dubai is such an exciting arena for the arts, and where to discover its treasures.


Which upcoming show are you most excited about at Jameel Arts Centre?

Following Crude, Jameel Arts Centre will feature Jameel Prize 5, a collaboration with London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. The award recognises contemporary artists from all over the world who are influenced and inspired by Islamic art and design, and the exhibition features the eight finalists. It’s a lively showcase that includes photography, painting, installation, fashion, design and film. Alongside this is our Artist’s Rooms – solo shows by remarkable artists from the Middle East and South Asia – and a range of installations.

Who are the local artists to watch?

Each month, our library features an artist based in the UAE: they present a talk and take over the library exhibition spaces for a month to show their works-in-progress. This is a great opportunity to gain insight into the ways that artists think and work. They are often onsite and can talk visitors through their work.

Following your opening in November 2018, how have you found the reception?

Every weekend, Jameel Arts Centre is buzzing with talks, tours, workshops, screenings and meetings, for all ages and demographics. We feel that the Jameel has been quickly embraced by the local community, and we’re thrilled about this; it was one of our main goals from the moment we opened. Weekdays are generally quieter, and this is the time that the Jameel really shines as a place of rare reflection and calm in the city – whether having a picnic in the Sculpture Park, or wandering the exhibitions. We have seven desert gardens, a library, espresso bar and our shop, which is a real gem – the place to pick up design objects by local artists, posters, books and hand-picked gifts.


Which other local galleries would you recommend we visit?

Dubai has a very vibrant arts scene: it is the regional art market centre, with Art Dubai taking place every March and a great set of commercial galleries, the artists’ studio centre Tashkeel, and the creative neighbourhood of Alserkal Avenue. Don’t miss Ishara Foundation, a new not-for-profit specialising in artists from South Asia. Make time while you’re here to catch a film at the indie Cinema Akil.


Are there any cafés near Jameel Arts Centre that are great for a post-exhibition coffee?

We’re biased, but we think we have the best coffee and brownies in town in our in-house espresso bar, so come ready to be caffeinated! Deliveroo invites visitors to order online and have a picnic delivered to our Sculpture Park. A 10-minute cab ride away is D3: a top tip here would be to visit Yui for fantastic noodles.


What does a typical day off in Dubai look like for you?

There’s always so much going on at Jameel Arts Centre, my days off are often spent at ‘work’, but if a real break is in order, then I love heading into the desert or mountains to camp. If you really get the spot right, sometimes there’s even no phone signal…