From the swish streets of Gate Village in DIFC to the rough ‘n’ ready Al Quoz district, Dubai has plenty of art to keep you inspired. Here are the five best exhibitions to see right now, whether you’re a casual observer or the next Charles Saatchi.

Career-long retrospective of the Palestinian-born, US-based artist. A leading proponent of abstraction, Halaby is known for her bold use of colour and vivid brushwork, which is strongly rooted in Islamic art. This exhibition features 50 of her works, including sculpture and computer-generated kinetic works. A rather splendid overview of a brilliant career that is supported by a hefty and impressively illustrated publication of the same name.

Samia Halaby, Art Dubai

Until 30 April
Ayyam Gallery Dubai, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai, free. Tel: (04) 3236242.

This is the first UAE outing for Slavs And Tatars, an acclaimed international collective of artists devoted to the art, culture and history of “an area east of the Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China” – a not-entirely modest geographical mass that includes our beloved Middle East. This show opens in parallel with the group’s debut at Art Dubai and looks at the use of language in visual arts – a key theme within their practice. This clever swathe of artists has exhibited to international acclaim everywhere from London’s Frieze Art Fair to MoMA in New York. Now it’s our turn.

Language Arts, Art Dubai

March 17 to April 17
The Third Line, Street 6, Al Quoz 3, Dubai, free. Tel: (04) 3411367.

There’s a hint of 1990s dance culture and a dash of pop art in the smiley faces of Robert Hammond’s art. But there’s something beyond the surface of these shiny shapes, made up of  layer of metal, glass and acrylic. Look closely and you’ll see they’re not so simple after all.

Happy Lucky, Art Dubai

March 17 to April 17
Art Sawa, Gate Village, DIFC, Dubai, free. Tel: (04) 3862366. Metro: Financial Centre.

Subtitled Stories Yet To Be Told, this annual outing from Sharjah’s Emirates Fine Art Society reveals the rich culture of the Emirates’ art. One of the highlights is local art hero Ebistam AbdulAziz’s latest series, My Phone Diary, which explores her on-going quest for alternative ways to record her life and experiences. Featuring 40 drawings rendered in fluorescent paint and with an audio accompaniment, Ebistam’s definitely still on track.

Fine Arts Society, Art Dubai

Until April 30
Sharjah Art Museum, East Wing, Arts Area, Sharjah, free. Tel: (06) 5686229. Taxi: Sharjah Art Museum.

Swedish artist Peter Sköld served as a UN peacekeeper in the Bosnian War, sustaining an injury that deprived him of feeling in his painting arm. Forcing himself to adapt, Sköld developed a method of dripping paint on to surfaces from above. The results form a new exhibition, Crazy Earth, The Art Way, at Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Abu Dhabi. He explains how art helped him to heal:

Crazy Earth, The Art Way is based on my experience in the Bosnian War, and more recent events in my life. During my second tour of duty in Bosnia, I was captured as a prisoner of war and faced torture on a daily basis. I later sustained the injury that severed feeling in my right arm.

“When I heard I would not regain feeling, I felt anger, confusion and loss. This was combined with images of innocent women and children, and villages being ransacked. I felt hopeless.

Crazy Earth, The Art Way, Art Dubai“When I returned to Sweden, there was no infrastructure to deal with war veterans. Unlike other European countries, war is not deeply rooted in our history, and the returning members of my company did not have a support network. Of the 30 who returned, 12 took their own lives.

“I was in an abyss and saved myself by retreating into painting. I shut myself in the cellar for hours, even days, at a time, hashing out emotions on canvas. My work was dark at that time, with a lot of brown and grey hues. My wife chided me for this and asked if these were the only colours at the store.

“My art was therapy that helped ease me back into everyday life. Later it became an expression of happiness when my wife became pregnant with our first child. My work took off after that, with lighter, more humorous themes. Crazy Earth, The Art Way tells a compelling narrative of hope and the randomness of chance encounters.”

Until April 1
Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Khor Al Maqta, Abu Dhabi. Tel: (02) 6543000. Taxi: Fairmont Bab Al Bahr.