Dubai’s vibrant arts scene began the moment people first inhabited the region thousands of years ago, when the stories of events such as hunting expeditions or fishing missions were passed down from generation to generation through music, song and dance (which are all characterised by the use of percussion and drums). Today this art form survives with these same traditional performances enjoyed at cultural occasions such as festivals, national holidays and weddings. The artefacts of Dubai’s art history have been preserved at many of the city’s museums, including the Dubai Museum, which showcases the local antiques and handcrafted specimens of bygone eras.
In terms of modern day masterpieces, the best of the region’s art can be found in Dubai’s numerous art galleries, museums and art centres, many of which are recent developments and have paved the way for a significant growth in the local art scene in recent years. The city has many galleries, such as Majlis and XVA, which are popular choices for viewing and purchasing art, including paintings, sculptures, glassware, ceramics and jewellery from local and international artists. Contemporary art has also built up its profile, with the Green Art Gallery and Gallery 76 (at the Dubai International Art Centre) leading the way for the movement in the city, as well as Art Dubai, a contemporary art fair held at Madinat Arena every March.
The rise in modern art is underlined even further each year with the awarding of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, which, with a US$1 million prize pool, offers the greatest payment of its kind anywhere in the world. This honour is awarded to proposals, rather than completed pieces, so that the funds can be used toward the creation of a piece that may not have had backing otherwise. Theatre has also captivated Dubai in recent times, with the Madinat Theatre established in 2004 and the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (DUCTAC) opening two years later. Both centres are regarded as world-class, and feature a range of performances year round.