Published on Tuesday 18 April 2017

There’s a parachute fragment; a piece of cloth with a prayer by private soldier; an ex-voto of a ferilla in a storm – as well as contemporary artworks by 13 leading Maltese artists

Photo credit: PRAYER detail, Austin Camilleri

These are some of around 200 objects which will form part of the Malta Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia 2017.

Less than a month before the opening of the Malta Pavilion at the 57th International Art Exhibition at La Biennale di Venezia 2017, preparations are well underway.

This International Exhibition, which will run between 13 May-26 November 2017, is one of the most prestigious exhibitions in the world, with an attendance of over 500,000 visitors. Media attention is exceptional; in 2015 there were over 8,000 accredited journalists, of which 5,450 from the foreign press and 2,650 from the Italian press.

The Venice Art Biennale is reputably one of the biggest gatherings of contemporary art works in the world, also known as the stage for the most internationally diverse artistic voices to be found anywhere.

The declared aim of the Malta Pavilion, which is being commissioned by Arts Council Malta, is to offer a platform through which Maltese contemporary artists can be presented to an international audience.



Photo credit: Study, detail from D. Mylius Opus Medico-Chymicum, JP Azzopardi

Speaking at an informal event to thank patrons and sponsors of the Malta Pavilion held at Arts Council Malta, Culture Minister Owen Bonnici expressed his delight at the effort made by the curators and the organisers as well as at the level of Maltese talent that will be on international display through the six months of what is among the most famous art events in the world.

“From the start of this legislature, Government has worked hard to cultivate, nurture and promote the talents of Maltese artists on national and international stages, through investment and participation in events such as the Venice Biennale as well as through diplomatic relations that led to Maltese culture and Maltese artists benefitting from opportunities worldwide,” said Dr Bonnici. He also referred to the crib designed and built by a Gozitan artist displayed for the Christmas festivities at the Vatican City last year – a first not only for Malta but also internationally, as no non-Italian made crib had ever been displayed in St Peter’s Square before.

Arts Council Malta executive chair Albert Marshall added: “Through the selection of around 200 objects making up the Malta Pavilion, the curatorial concept aims to create a dialogue as well as open up a discussion on who we are – or perhaps who we think we are – as Maltese people.”

Malta is officially returning to the Biennale with a 300-square metre National Pavilion at the Arsenale in the main exhibition section, after an absence of 17 years. It has so far participated with a special exhibition of Maltese Artists in 1958 and a National Pavilion in 1999.

In the coming weeks, the arts objects forming part of the Malta Pavilion will start being shipped to Venice. The concept for the Malta Pavilion – Homo Melitensis: An Incomplete Inventory in 19 chapters -  is a collective exhibition that investigates the quest for a national identity through artistic, archival and documentary elements. Everyday objects are interconnected in the poetic, associative space of a Cabinet of Curiosities.

Curators Raphael Vella and Bettina Hutschek have drawn on Maltese art from the past and present, juxtaposing historic items with contemporary. This overview will include works by artists based in Malta, works by artists from the Maltese diaspora (chosen from submissions following an Open Call), folk artefacts, works from private and national collections, other artefacts and images that come from different sources, like journalism, national and private collections and popular culture. 

The artists included in the show offer a diverse array of styles, mediums and topics, with contributions from: Joe Sacco, Karine Rougier, Roxman Gatt, Teresa Sciberras, Darren Tanti, Aaron Bezzina, David Pisani, Pia Borg, Austin Camilleri, John Paul Azzopardi, Gilbert Calleja, Adrian Abela, and the late satirical cartoonist Maurice Tanti Burlo (known as Nalizpelra).

The Malta Pavilion is being commissioned by Arts Council Malta, in collaboration with MUŻA under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice, Culture and Local Government. It will also form part of the Cultural programme of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2017. The project will also bridge with the contemporary art programme of Valletta as European Capital of Culture in 2018. The Biennale is one of 70 actions being implemented as part of Strategy2020, Arts Council Malta’s five-year strategy for the cultural and creative sectors.