An Insider's Guide To Art Dubai Week

An Insider's Guide To Art Dubai Week

As the Middle East's premier art fair, Art Dubai has driven local, regional and international conversations on art from the Middle East and surrounding region, over the past 17 years. And each edition offers visitors to the city not only a chance to engage with a broad spectrum of ideas but also to enjoy a few days in this most culturally-diverse of cities, Dubai itself. Head of the Sotheby's Dubai office, Katia Nounou tells us about her Dubai and why this endlessly evolving city is the place she loves to call home.
As the Middle East's premier art fair, Art Dubai has driven local, regional and international conversations on art from the Middle East and surrounding region, over the past 17 years. And each edition offers visitors to the city not only a chance to engage with a broad spectrum of ideas but also to enjoy a few days in this most culturally-diverse of cities, Dubai itself. Head of the Sotheby's Dubai office, Katia Nounou tells us about her Dubai and why this endlessly evolving city is the place she loves to call home.

I t might come a surprise to some first-time visitors, but for those in the know, Dubai’s diverse offerings are rich and varied. There’s an abundance of experiences for travellers and residents alike, from cultural to culinary delights, reflecting the rich global mix of people who have made the emirate their home.

Katia Nounou, Head of Office, Sotheby's Dubai

I’m one of them - I moved here in 2015, from London just as I got married. I remember it felt like such an exotic move, coming from London. And sure enough, it didn’t disappoint – I quickly discovered that this city is nothing short of extraordinary. The original plan was for us to live in Dubai for two to three years (which usually tends to be the intention of most expats who move to the UAE), but it’s now eight years later and I never want to leave!

As an expat navigating Dubai over the years, I’ve uncovered some true gems - cute shops, independent boutiques, charming cafes and unique Dubai moments, far removed from the cliched view of Disneyland Dubai that now really make me feel at home.

So, I’m going to share my favourite little spots with you. These are my personal go-to’s for eating and shopping, and of course, given March is the city’s customary art season around Art Dubai and every other year, the neighbouring Sharjah Biennale, some must-see moments to look out for at and during this year’s fair.

Art Dubai week is one of the most inspiring times to visit Dubai as so many collectors are in town from all over the world, the city’s galleries and institutions all launch exciting new exhibitions, there are parties, openings, talks and it’s always lovely to catch up with the global art crowd in town for the week when they descend on our galleries.

During Art Week, Sotheby’s Dubai are thrilled to be exhibiting some highlights from the forthcoming Modern and Contemporary Middle East and Arts of the Islamic World sales in London during April.

We're especially excited to be presenting Beirut 1960s - Now: A Love Letter to the Arts, an exhibition celebrating Beirut’s far-reaching influence upon the region’s artistic sphere. Beirut has always been a place of inspiration and here, 47 artists are represented, of which 32 are Lebanese and the rest from Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Iraq, who were in some way or form, shaped by their interaction with the city.
The earliest works in the sale date to the mid-twentieth century, following the rise of postwar Modernism in the city which coincided with the shift away from colonial Lebanon to an independent state. The democratic constitution in the years following 1943 guaranteed the elevation of the status of the artist from craftsman to intellectual, instigated by institutional developments and cultural activities that supported the artistic ecosystem, and soon the art scene was awash with diverse schools of thought and modes of expression – many of which we can find amidst the artworks in the sale.
During Art Dubai, we're showing a selection of works at our Dubai office, which then be shown in Sotheby's in London during April, ahead of the live auction, which will take place in London on 23 April.


Jameel Art Centre

Guest Relations at Art Jameel, February/March 2024. (Photography by Daniella Baptista)

Set along Dubai’s Jaddaf Creek, Jameel Art Centre is a must-see contemporary art museum. Beyond its consistently brilliant programming and exhibitions, the institution has an extensive research library, a seasonal tasting menu at its farm-to-table restaurant Teible, and gorgeous gardens, featuring over 140 species of plants, as well as a sculpture park.

There are several exhibitions on view during Art Dubai, including Short Circuits by Vikram Divecha, Some Seasons: Fereydoun Ave and the Laal Collection 1959 – 2019 and group show, Guest Relations.
Jameel Art Centre, Jaddaf Waterfront, Dubai

Ishara Art Foundation

Installation view of Sheher, Prakriti, Devi at Ishara Art Foundation, 2024. (Image courtesy of Ishara Art Foundation and the artists. Photo by Augustine Paredes/Seeing Things)

Ishara Art Foundation is a non-profit organisation focussed on South Asian contemporary art, with a research-led approach. The foundation is currently exhibiting Sheher, Prakriti, Devi, an exhibition that marks artist and photographer Gauri Gill’s first extensive show.
Ishara Art Foundation opened in 2019, in Alserkal Avenue, the heart of the city’s flourishing art scene. I love coming here - it’s an essential destination for any art fans visiting the city - the Avenue comprises galleries, museums, workshops, cafes, and several public activity spaces alongside a wide-range of public programs.
Ishara Art Foundation, A3, Alserkal Avenue, 17th St Al Quoz, Dubai

Bayt Al Mamzar

Beyt Al Mamzar (Image courtesy Beit al Mamzar)

Emirati brothers Khalid and Gaith Abdulla have transformed their grandmother’s 1980s villa into one of the very few independent spaces for local artists and creatives in Dubai. Bayt Al Mamzar is in a quiet seaside neighbourhood, the home-turned-creative-hub comprising a gallery, artist studios, co-working space, and a growing library. Since opening their doors to the creative community in November 2021, BAM is one of the few cultural spaces that allows insight into, and chance to engage with, Dubai’s creative community at a grassroots level.
During Art Dubai, Bayt Al Mamzar has a group show titled Crystal Clear كريستال كلير, curated by Studio Salasil. The exhibition invites us to imagine a reality that has not happened before - a world where our roots reach above the soil and into the sky.
Bayt Al Mamzar House 2, 26 Street, Al Mamzar Dubai


Dubaians are spoilt for choice when it comes to fine dining and global cuisine. Of course, we have a full complement of international brands (which are consistently impeccable) such as Zuma, Coya, Le Petit Maison, Arts Club, Cipriani and Gaia but there are plenty of excellent, homegrown restaurants unique to Dubai which I would definitely recommend you visit.

Feels By The Beach

Feels By The Beach (Photo: Katia Nounou)

Living in Dubai is a beach lover’s dream. Waking up every morning to see a blue sky and sunshine never gets old. In fact, I have made it a point to start my day every morning with a long walk on the beach before I get to work. There’s a beach near me, Sunset Beach where there is the loveliest little shack called Feels. It serves the best breakfasts, the most amazing matcha lattes, smoothies, and sourdough toast, with a huge variety of toppings. It’s a great breakfast spot as its simple and you can eat with your feet in the sand. Definitely my favorite way to spend my early mornings!
Feels By The Beach, 2 Al Nessnass St, Jumeirah 3


11Woodfire (Image courtesy 11Woodfire)

Chef Akmal (who is the chef behind Three Fils and Goldfish Sushi in Dubai), leads the way at 11Woodfire, a Michelin-starred venue that’s modern, spacious yet cozy. The dining area is set around a wood fired open-plan kitchen and the food cooked there is just so exciting! Succulent chargrilled meat and fish is cooked on the wood fire, and they have some of the best seafood carpaccios I’ve ever had, with unique dressings and sauces. It’s really no wonder this restaurant has a Michelin star but I should mention they do not serve alcohol.
11Woodfire Villa 11 75B St Jumeirah 1, Dubai

Orfali Brothers

Orfali Brothers (Image courtesy Orfali Brothers)

This alcohol-free Michelin-starred restaurant is owned by three Syrian brothers (hence the name!) It’s been critically-acclaimed as one of the city’s top 50 restaurants and when you visit, you’ll see why. The menu is incredibly original - it’s a very modern fusion of Syrian and broader Middle Eastern food, all with a distinct twist. Dubai has, of course, no shortage of Middle Eastern cuisine, but this place really does stand out. My personal recommendation based on experience, is to go in a small group and order the entire menu as the plates are small so one can literally try every single dish, a true culinary adventure!
Orfali Brothers, Wasl 51, Building D, D92 Jumeirah, Dubai

Mimi Kakushi

Mimi Kakushi (Image courtesy Mimi Kakushi)

Mimi Kakushi is one of my favourite Japanese restaurants. It’s in the Four Seasons hotel, the quality of the fish is outstanding, the restaurant has an exotic décor inspired by 1920s Osaka which makes it super cozy and intimate (unlike some of those huge Dubai restaurants). The menu here is simply outstanding – think playful twists and riffs on well-known Japanese classics, and a selection of desserts that are all dangerously delicious. This is where I love to go on a weeknight and relax in one of their atmospheric corner booths, or just drop in and grab some zingy bites at the sushi counter.
Mimi Kakushi, Restaurant Village, Four Seasons Resort, Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai


Villa Margot

Villa Margot (Image courtesy Villa Margot)

I really recommend Villa Margot, on the corner of Al Wasl Road. This is a charming little villa that’s been converted into an unusual combination of flower shop and concept store with a tiny secret garden! It’s characterful and quaint and a great place to stop for coffee and buy housewarming gifts.
Villa Margot, 68 Al Urouba Street, Villa 20A, Jumeirah 2, PO Box 185400

Maison Clad

Maison Clad (Courtesy Maison Clad)

This is another shopping favourite, situated in the Collective by Ripe, inside the Courtyard. A lovely clothing store it was founded by the French fashion buyer Coralie Francoise who champions emerging European designers with a selection of exclusive and curated pieces. She also has her own capsule collection, WhiteHello. Here, I’ve found some of the nicest beach dresses and fun summery outfits in the city, all presented with a distinctly French flair.
Maison Clad, The Collective by Ripe inside The Courtyard in Al Quoz and other locations across the city

Experience: Desert Camping with Sonara

Sonara desert camping (Image courtesy Sonara)

So, one of the most wonderful things about living in Dubai is being able to start your day at the beach, and then an hour later, being in the heart of the action at DIFC – Dubai’s financial hub. But if you want to explore beyond the emirate’s stunning urban landscapes, head out to the spectacular deserts that surround the city. Of course, these days, one can arrange a glamping experience and personally, my favourite place for that is Sonara - an incredible luxury desert camp. It’s just 45 minutes from the heart of Dubai and absolutely magical - just imagine French hospitality and cuisine blended with an Arabian desert backdrop. There’s a spectacular program of lively entertainments, including a fire show, belly dancing, camel riding, falconry, archery and more. It’s a definite must-do when in Dubai, especially if you’re here during winter or springtime.
Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, Al Ain Road, Margham Gate

Sotheby's Dubai

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