Dubai’s financial district might appear at first glance to have little to offer the curious visitor but glass and steel and the faint aroma of money with a top-note of oil. But near Emirates Towers, a complex which looks like two robots having an argument, you’ll find Gate Village. This largely pedestrianized precinct hosts a number of galleries as well as the local outpost of the international auction house Christie’s. It is one of the desert city’s greatest arguments against its reputation as a cultural desert.
One gallery not to be missed is the world-class Farjam Collection, which has two distinct sections. The first is Islamic art in all its richness and diversity, stretching throughout the centuries and across the world, encompassing calligraphy, scientific works, paintings, applied arts, jewelry and sumptuous carpets. There are reminders of vanished dynasties like Mughal India and the rulers of Andalusia who offered not only artistic richness, but interfaith tolerance as well.
The other focus of connoisseurship is modern masters, with works by Picasso, Dalì and Warhol, right up to contemporary artists. While distinct, there are intriguing areas of crossover between these two worlds – Matisse’s fascination with North African decorative arts, for instance, or present-day artists from the Arab world responding to past traditions.
All of these diverse works have been amassed by Iranian collector Dr. Farhad Farjam and can be viewed in Gate Village, with rotating exhibitions ensuring that the collection’s full range is seen to best advantage. And while the exhibits may reach back into the distant past, the presentation is bang up to date, with sleek white walls and iPods to explain what you’re looking at.