Contemporary Art

Contemporary Art in Malta Is Having a Moment and Will be Big in 2024

Written by Albert Fenech
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If you’re a contemporary art fan, aim your gaze at Malta in 2024. The country’s first-ever Biennale unfurls between March and May followed by an October opening of the highly anticipated Malta International Contemporary Art Space (MICAS), another first for the island nation. Using its Natural beauty along with a treasure trove of cultural and historic sites as a backdrop, Malta and contemporary art will no doubt steal the travel show next year.

Contemporary Art Malta
The former Knights’ former Ospizio will soon be the home of the 7,000 square metre Malta International Contemporary Art Space (MICAS), slated to open in October 2024

Contemporary Art and Culture Collide

The Maltese Islands are small, so it’s no surprise that heritage and culture often intermingle with events and new openings.

Take Strait Street (Strada Stretta in Maltese) in Valletta, for example.For centuries it was a street for sword fights and armed duels and further deteriorated into a street lined with brothels. Simultaneously it was also renowned for having Valletta’s best restaurants and the location of the best music halls for nights of singing and dancing. (Of course, no reputable Maltese person would admit having eaten or been entertained there in the district).

Similarly, Floriana’s Balzunetta district, just outside of Valletta, also has a fascinating history, first as a gunpowder factory in the heart of highly populated Valletta for the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. But in 1634, the factory exploded, killing 22 people and damaging a nearby church.

New premises were rebuilt on barren land in 1665 in Floriana, which overlooks Marsamxett Harbour. In 1667 the factory had three windmills for the grinding and manufacturing of gunpowder, but by 1730, the manufacturing process had been taken over by private entrepreneurs, and the building fell empty.

Grandmaster Antonio Manoel de Vilhena reacted by enforcing the original function of the Order of St John for hospitaliering. The building’s vaults were converted to host a state-run institution for the care of the elderly and the infirm and became known as “The Ospizio” (The Hospital).  The building went on to host 380 residents and later included reformed prostitutes and those suffering mental problems.

Although the Ospizio was hit several times during German and Italian aerial bombing, all came to an end at the termination of World War II. Today Floriana is a highly reputable area with a beautiful public garden and houses the Malta Police General Headquarters.

Contemporary Art Malta
Construction is underway for MICAS, Malta’s first museum for international contemporary art, scheduled to open in October 2024 

MICAS

In 1997, the Malta International Contemporary Art Space known as MICAS was allocated the San Salvatore Bastions, which comprises the Ospizio , and its offices were finally fully moved there in 2017. Earlier this year, contemporary art fans were invited to the museum campus between 27 and 29 October during the MICAS International Art Weekend to welcome the inaugural permanent display by the celebrated artist and London-born sculptor Conrad Shawcross, on the theme “What is to Become is Already Here”.

The exhibit is now open to public viewing by appointment at MICAS.

An elated Shawcross said in a statement, “I am honoured to be the first artist to exhibit at the new MICAS campus. My theme chosen alludes to the harkening of things to come. MICAS will celebrate its new contemporary setting in an environment of historic fortifications and having witnessed the most breathtaking of histories”.

When MICAS finally opens in October 2024, it will not only become a showcase for local contemporary artists but will also engage with international institutions to present groundbreaking works by acclaimed artists from all over the world.

Contemporary Art in Malta and Gozo 2024

 The year 2024 will be big for Malta and Gozo, combining old and historic buildings with the latest in contemporary arts.

Before October 2024 official opening of MICAS, Malta will be holding its first-ever Biennale, an international event to which 12 countries have been accepted from all over the world and scores of stands will be erected throughout Malta and Gozo.

Contemporary artists, sculptors, designers, photographers, and fans can’t miss these events, representing the modern world of art in Malta’s magnificent historic and cultural settings.

Biennale celebrates contemporary art in Malta
Malta’s first-ever Biennale (March – May 2024)  will unfold unfold across Malta and Gozo, turning its historic and heritage sites into stunning stages for contemporary art

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BeSeeingYou In: Malta and Gozo

Good To Know: MICAS will overlook Marsamxett Harbour, within the ruins of San Salvatore Bastion (whose ramparts date back to the Order of Saint John)

WOW! Factor: Two firsts in 2024 cement Malta’s status as a key player on the contemporary art circuit

Tip:  Contact the organisations and book early if you plan to visit. Dense crowds are expected

Author bio: Albert Fenech

salina46af@gmail.com

Albert Fenech
Born in 1946, Albert Fenech’s family took up UK residence in 1954 where he spent his boyhood and youth before temporarily returning to Malta between 1957 and 1959 and then coming back to Malta permanently in 1965. He spent eight years as a full-time journalist with “The Times of Malta” before taking up a career in HR Management and Administration with a leading construction company building the Benghazi Hospital in Libya, later with Malta Insurance Brokers, Malta’s leading insurance Broker and finally STMicroelectronics Malta, employing 3,000 employees and Malta’s leading industrial manufacturer. Throughout he actively pursued freelance journalism and broadcasting for various media outlets covering social issues, current affairs, sports and travel. He was Publications Editor for the Malta Football Association for 25 years and has written for a number of publications both in Malta and overseas, as well as publishing two e-books.

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