DUBAI: In the heart of Dubai’s financial centre, a private members’ club is quietly offering a balancing act between smart taste-making and cultural acumen. It’s the lavish eponymous sister and the first international outpost of The Arts Club in London, which is steeped in history and has long been a bastion of the arts, sciences, and literature. Launched in 1863 by famed writer Charles Dickens, its elaborate expanses have been frequented by literary and artistic giants like Thomas Hughes and James McNeill Whistler.
In the UAE, The Arts Club opened its doors in December 2020 at ICD Brookfield Place in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the city’s bustling commercial hub for the Middle Eastern, African, and South Asian markets.
“Dubai already serves as a fantastic gateway between Europe and Asia and is a diverse destination with a very creative and entrepreneurial scene,” Ajaz Sheikh, CEO of The Arts Club Dubai, told Business Recorder. “Having successfully operated several of our sister restaurant brands for more than a decade, leading the team to create the second home of The Arts Club was an easy decision. We’re happy to be contributing to the continued innovation and growth of Dubai’s creative, cultural and artistic community.”
A fitting location that holds great allure for its patrons, the 65,000-square-feet space has been designed by Milan-based Dimorestudio, with lighting and furniture that nod to an Art Deco sensibility. It’s spread across four floors that house three restaurants, meeting rooms and private dining spaces, five members’ lounges, an open-air rooftop event space, a library, and Cigar Lounge, offering a satiable blend of business and leisure.
“As the opportunity for larger gatherings has increased worldwide, there has been much more to look forward to by way of live performances, private events, exclusive experiences and cultural offerings.”
The Arts Club Dubai has just celebrated its one-year anniversary and Sheikh holds that members and the team that services them remain at the core of the brand ethos. “The response has been incredible,” he shared. “But not without its challenges in the first year of operations amidst a global pandemic. Nevertheless, we’ve seen a rapid increase in applications month on month, allowing us to carefully and selectively create our community of like-minded people from different cultures and sectors. As Dubai is ever-evolving, so is the Club,” he adds.
For both the Dubai and London locations, the Clubs are ultra-private and exclusively for members and their guests, with membership based on being proposed, seconded, and then reviewed by an election committee to ensure that there’s a regionally representative community of individuals. “The Arts Club in London is already established and popular with members from the Middle East and South Asia and with a firm hospitality and culinary foothold in the UAE market from other businesses within our group we know the city and its inhabitants well,” shares Sheikh.
The Arts Club membership is split across four categories: Full, Second* (for married couples), Under 30s, and International, with members having access to its diverse cultural programming.
“Unique to the Club is our cultural programme, which gives members access to a series of engaging events like guest speaker sessions, panel discussions, off-site tours, and the best that the region has to offer,” explains Sheikh.
Among the curatorial hooks of The Arts Club Dubai is its series of stairway exhibitions, which offer an impressive mix of regional cultural production. Unveiled this month and running until March 6, 2022 at the space is ‘The End of Love’ exhibition by Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari, which offers a scintillating look at his works dedicated to the study of archive and photography in the Arab world. Initiatives like these bolster the Club’s mission and mandate to uphold patronage of the arts, as its name promises.
With its prolific history and enduring legacy, The Arts Club Dubai is attuned to its London counterpart, but also has its own identity and vision. “We felt strongly that we had to reinterpret and adapt it for its second home,” says Sheikh. “The classic style of service from London is largely evident throughout the Club in Dubai, particularly at The Brasserie restaurant. We recently opened Oscuro, our cigar lounge that originated at the Club in London, home to a beautifully hand-crafted humidor and well-stocked with a selection of smokes by a Master of Habanos,” he adds.
With new culinary concepts, the Nikkei restaurant Rohen and our Italian spot Alveare, plus a cultural programme of events at the forefront of our members’ experiences, The Arts Club Dubai offers a unique value proposition.
“I feel we’ve brought something entirely new to the market, with a wealth of inheritance of how a club can be operated successfully – something we know is key for our discerning members from the Middle East and South Asia,” shares Sheikh. “Above all, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and, like our members, ‘fun’ is at the forefront of all that we do.”
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022