The Rise of Street Art in Dubai

Dubai has risen to prominence as an international metropolis almost overnight. Great glittering spires rise into the heavens with astronomical price-tags to beckon the world’s rich and famous.

This state of the United Arab Emirates has been working to transform itself into a global hub of trade and finance, and its massive rate of development has drawn in so many workers that UAE Nationals only make up 17% of the entire population.

Underneath the bright lights and monuments to the ambition of Dubai is an undercurrent of the common man seeking to express himself.

As the population of workers and poor continues to grow in the shadow of the city, street art and graffiti are making their mark on this new metropolis.

Dubai Graffiti

With the large increase of residential property in Dubai , there has been a large insurgence of working class people from around the world; looking for a way to express their voice.

Graffiti in Dubai is subject to all the statutes regarding vandalism, and punishments can be anywhere from fines to incarceration and/or deportation. With such a heavy price to pay, many would be street artists are looking to harness their medium in a safer and more constructive manner.

Street art in this Persian Gulf city has been taking a unique form that stands apart from its counterparts in the older cities of the world.

Street artists are working hand in hand with the residents and administrators of the various properties in Dubai to create art that is embraced by the community.

Rather than just going out and tagging random buildings or streets, many artists in Dubai work with the municipal authorities to get permission for their projects and set aside space for making art accessible in the city.

Dubai Graffiti

Other artists walk the grey line between vandalism and sponsorship by placing their graffiti in the public domain, yet sticking to temporary structures.

One artist in particular, Arcadia Blank , has been instrumental in kick starting dialogue around the issue within Dubai.

His style is deceptively simple, comprised only of black writing and signed with only a triangle.

His messages are scrawled along building scaffolding, construction walls, and security guard shelters.

These pieces of art use potent one-line phrases to act as contrast to the imposed sheen of commercial banality.

Dubai Graffiti

More striking visual street art is also being used to create a better living environment for the underclass of Dubai.

A coalition of artists is coming together in the run down Al Quoz district, a conglomeration of miscellaneous factories and labor camps, to beautify the neighborhood.

Their plans include working with the municipal authorities to erect a few free walls in the area where graffiti will be allowed and encouraged, and let the authorities and the residents get used to the idea.

Starting near the art galleries and working their way into the labor camps, these artists hope to rectify the dismal visual state of the area, as well as empower the local people to take control of art as their voice.

Dubai Graffiti

The rising popularity of street art is not lost on His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum , ruler of Dubai.

Dubai is host to an annual spring art festival, Art Dubai , which serves as the focal point for the city’s cultural and artistic prominence worldwide.

With each successive year more street art is being presented during the festival, and should efforts for collaboration continue to be the modus operandi of street artists, greater levels of state sponsorship and involvement will no doubt continue to support this rising tide.

Dubai Graffiti

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About the author  ⁄ CharlieFirespin

I am Charlie, a writer and record label manager from London. I am currently working for BM Soho (Blackmarket Records London).