Watch this space. Abu Dhabi is keen to become one of the cultural capitals of the world, and the developments taking place on Saadiyat are sure to catapult the city into the arts A-list. Both the Louvre and Guggenheim are building outposts here, and the architecture promises to be stunning. With all the excitement, plenty of new commercial galleries are cropping up, and Abu Dhabi is certainly going places. So be one of the first to explore it all.
1) Etihad Modern Art Gallery
If you’d like to find out what’s going on in the arts scene across the United Arab Emirates, one of the best places to come is the Etihad Modern Art Gallery. Here they promote local and regional artists and showcase the latest creations from aspiring big names. If you’re feeling creative yourself, you can sign up to workshops and art classes here too.
2) Manarat al Saadiyat
Abu Dhabi has got big plans for the future, and this is where you can come to see them. International architects such as Frank Gehry have created some stunning architecture to house all the new galleries that will form Abu Dhabi’s cultural district, and you can see a scale model of what it will all look like at the Manarat. There are also exhibits on the history of Abu Dhabi and the region.
3) Abu Dhabi Art Hub
The Hub aims to get a dialogue going between artists of the UAE and across the world. As such it’s run by and for the artists themselves, and offers a residency to up-and-coming artists. There are regular exhibitions here showcasing everything from country-specific collections to individual exhibitions. You’ll find the Hub on Mussafah MW5.
4) Folklore Gallery
If you're interested in traditional cultural treasures, you might want to see some of the arts and crafts that are still being made in Abu Dhabi and the Emirates today. The Folklore Gallery is one of the more popular attractions in Abu Dhabi, housing a collection of art inspired by the desert landscape, as well as Bedouin jewellery and pottery.
5) The Tavern
One of the best places in town to come and hear live music, you’ll find the Tavern at Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel. Thursday night is covers night, and after the band’s last song the DJ uncovers the decks. He takes requests, so feel free to ask for your favourite toe-tapping tune.
6) Cloud Nine
If your idea of nightlife is a bit more sedate than dancing till the early hours, Cloud Nine at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi could be the place to come. A resident pianist will tickle the ivories while you relax and enjoy the evening. Cloud Nine is a cigar bar, but cigar smoking isn’t compulsory!
7) The Louvre
At the time of writing, the Louvre Abu Dhabi isn’t yet open, but when it does let visitors through its doors, you'll be able to witness an extremely impressive and fast-growing collection. But even now, it’s still worth coming to Saadiyat to visit it, as the gallery building is a work of art in itself. It’s designed by award-winning architect Jean Nouvel and based on key elements of Islamic and Arabic architecture. A geometric lace dome creates a rain of light, while small, shaded passages make you feel like you’re walking through a souk.
8) The Guggenheim
Just like the Louvre, at the time of writing, the Guggenheim is also under development. Designed by Frank Gehry, the building is an innovative structure, inspired by industrial studio spaces and surrounded on three sides by the Persian Gulf. Clusters of galleries centre around a covered courtyard, and there is natural cooling and ventilation thanks to covered courtyards and tunnels.
9) Gallery One
Located at Souk Qaryat Al Beri Umm Al Nar, Gallery One has built up a reputation for hosting some big names on the international arts scene. Although the gallery is becoming a global brand in itself, the focus is still very much on home-grown art, although the gallery regularly hosts visiting exhibitions.