Interview with Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Developer of Alserkal Avenue & Patron of the Arts

The Emirate of Dubai has long established its reputation for dedicating considerable resources to the arts and culture scene. With a number of governmental initiatives realised, scores more on the horizon and hubs of culture growing all over, Dubai is now home to an impressive collection of contemporary Middle Eastern and international art galleries. Founded in 2007, Alserkal Avenue is one of the UAE’s most prominent art community projects. Behind it stands the Alserkal family, one of the country’s foremost family businesses. Alserkal Avenue is based in Al Quoz, an industrial area central to Dubai, home to over forty creative and industrial businesses. The Avenue serves as a platform for galleries and art organisations whilst simultaneously acting as a support system for artists in residence via workshops, seminars, and community events.

Famed for their family-owned conglomerate, the Alserkal Group, the Alserkal family’s efforts have been a key driver to the success of Alserkal Avenue. Born in Dubai, Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal is a third generation family business member, developer of Alserkal Avenue and noted patron of the arts. After graduating university in the United States, he began his career with the family business, focusing on real estate and other developments in the UAE. In 2007 he developed the vision for Alserkal Avenue, which today houses some of the region’s foremost contemporary art spaces. Dramatic expansion plans are underway for new facilities expected in 2014. For their cultural contributions to the city, in 2012 and 2013, the Alserkal family was awarded the Patron of the Arts award by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Tharawat magazine met with Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal and discovered the vision that built the avenue.

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How did Alserkal Avenue grow to its size in just a few years time?

Alserkal Avenue grew organically, and has taken on a life of its own, always changing and evolving. It was not a planned initiative, so there is no date of establishment per se. Over the past five years it simply formed itself and developed a unique energy of its own. Alserkal Avenue has become an arts community, an eclectic coexistence of different businesses within an industrial area of Dubai. The integrity of the district is assured by the synergy amongst the galleries and organisations that are part of the initiative: From contemporary art galleries with international acclaim to the car shops and factories; the atmosphere that is created is conducive to innovation and to pushing the boundaries of what we know. To go back to the beginning of Alerskal Avenue is to think of the first gallery that moved into the avenue. Ayyam established itself in 2008 and other galleries followed, as well as creative and community spaces contributing to the growth of the arts scene and developing their own infrastructure.

Has your family influenced your decision to enter the art scene?

My father, Eisa Bin Nasser Alserkal, has always been an inspiration to us. He speaks six languages, is a world traveller and one of the most educated and cultured people I know. His continuous support of the arts and appreciation of talent has been a driving force within our home to support and appreciate architecture, arts and design and foster creativity within our projects and endeavours. It was not a matter of ‘entering’ the arts scene; it’s just always been a part of our lifestyle. And we hope for this passion to continue with the future generations of our family.

To add to this, I am very proud to call Dubai my home and to have been a part of the growth that the city has experienced through the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Being surrounded by an active environment full of opportunities, one always wants to be a part of that force of creation. This dynamic ecosystem is what enabled the growth of Alserkal Avenue and what feeds our plans for its expansion.