Interior of the former Pavilion Downtown. Photo courtesy of the organization.


The Pavilion Downtown is a nice place for appointments, and a good place to wait or work in between meetings. It is an art lounge cum working space cum gallery cum screening facility cum restaurant cum shisha bar, of the kind one may expect in major metropolises. Its location, in front of the Burj Khalifa and in the most modern area of Dubai (‘Downtown’) is very convenient and quite spectacular.

The Pavilion opened early in 2011 in a space that was formerly the sales office of Emaar Properties, but was completely renovated by the architect Abboud Malak, resulting in 1400 square meters of space and a big terrace facing the Burj Khalifa. The interior is truly beautiful. Given the amount of space it rarely feels crowded, and the furniture, the large wooden working table and the library invite one to ‘hang out’ and enjoy the good wireless connection.

The exhibitions and screenings – some of them organized by the curatorial team of The Third Line – are often of a higher level than one would expect from an ‘art café’. An overview of past and upcoming programs indicates that The Pavilion has managed to place itself in the vanguard of international art. But the viewing experience is mitigated by the noise and light of a restaurant/workspace, so it is not the optimal place to view art: except the screening room, which is very pleasant and allows for concentrated viewing. Every year the design of a 40m banner that drapes along the facade of the Pavilion is allocated to an artist by competition. In 2011 Haig Aivazian won the competition, and in 2012 Lara Baladi made the banner. In addition large public art sculptures are placed on the lawn.

The Pavilion Downtown is operated as a non-profit organization by the ‘multidivisional group Cultural Engineering’ about which nothing can be found on internet, besides its involvement in the Pavilion. The café is operated by Emaar Hospitality Group. The food is good, but like most culinary experiences in Dubai, not remarkable.

One of the advantages of the location of the Pavilion is its proximity to the Dubai Design Days, which are held during Art Dubai just across the street. The Pavilion is also cooperating with the Dubai International Film Festival, with periodic showings throughout the year, and it hosts Dubai’s Pecha Kucha evenings about twice yearly. The Pavilion will also be within walking distance of the planned Museum of Modern Art – if and when that is completed.

As of halfway October 2013 the Pavillion Downtown was closed. As The National newspaper wrote, “It is confirmed, the rumours are true. The Pavilion Downtown Dubai will be closing to make way for Emaar to showcase the new design district on the Boulevard.”

However the initiators, the brothers Ahmed and Rashid Bin Shabib, founders of the Brownbook magazine, are working on a new space. See the picture below. They also opened the Archive in Safa Park and  the Magazine Store in the DIFC.

New Pavillion

Ahmed and Rashid Bin Shabib discussing ideas for a new venue in front of the Brownbook office in the DIFC. Photo NeilvdL.



Written by: RobertK Last modified: 23rd Nov 2013
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