- Julie Daunt
One of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries, Malta is a melting pot of cultural histories, ranging from Roman to Norman to French and British. Since independence in 1974, Malta has become an interesting destination for art lovers, not only because of its ancient architecture, but also its shy yet up-and-coming contemporary art scene. We take a look at its 10 best art galleries and museums.
Christine X Art Gallery
Established in Malta for over a decade, Christine X Art gallery aims to promote the work of local emerging artists as well as international artists within Malta. Previously known as the Artitude Gallery, the works at this owner-run gallery tend to focus on colour and varying themes of landscape, figuration and abstraction. The harmony of these various styles creates a little haven of inspiration. Although a small space, the gallery boasts a wealth of regular artistic talent, including South African Anthony Weitz and his plein air seascapes, Austrian Clemens Hasengschwandtner and his graphic vibrant creations, or local artistic talent Samuel Sultana and his expressionist pieces.
Christine X Art Gallery, 17 Tigne Street, Sliema, Malta. +356 2131 6708
Both a contemporary art space and a working studio, Studio 104 is a relatively fresh hub of creativity, opened in Valletta in 2013. Exhibited works vary from contemporary art to audio visuals and installation pieces. The studio gallery also houses a working 1970s Malta Drydocks manufactured Printing Press, now used for educational workshops. Notable exhibitions include A Sense of Place, which displayed the expressionist works of the gallery’s owner and curator Michelle Morrissey. Another feature was a graduate exhibition from MCAST entitled Disclosure, which gave a fresh view on up-and-coming contemporary art in Malta through a variety of media such as drawing, photography and sculpture.
Studio 104, St. Lucia’s Street, Il-Belt Valletta, Malta, +356 2728 0028
St James Cavalier
St James Cavalier, Centre for Creativity began as the Maltese Government’s Millennium Project and has since had over 1 million visitors. Its original aim was to further Malta’s cultural objectives by supporting the developing contemporary art scene and by celebrating the country’s complex and treasured history. St. James Cavalier is the building which houses Fondazzjoni Kreattività. The centre is housed in a 16th century fort and consists of a small theatre arena, art-house cinema, chamber music room, and gallery space. True to its name, this is a dynamic centre, and a home to creativity with operas, major exhibitions and theatrical premieres. The centre strives to spread cultural awareness to younger and more disadvantaged members of the community too, as well as contributing to the country’s social and economic development. Spazju Kreattiv is the programme at the centre of everything; it is governed by the following three principles: identity; diversity; legacy.
Lily Agius Gallery
Previously known by the name Exposed Art by Lily Agius, Lily Agius Gallery marries the best of Maltese art with internationally renowned talent. Leaving her career in media, Lily Agius opened her gallery in Sliema in 2011 and has since become firmly rooted in Malta’s contemporary art sphere. The gallery’s long and spacious interior creates an inviting environment for visitors and a seamless flow through the contemporary exhibitions and solo artist shows. Previously acclaimed shows include performance and film artist Jimmy Grima and photographers Ritty Tacsum and Elisa Von Brockdorff. Lily Agius Gallery also hosts community-centred events, including yoga evenings where relaxation and art combine.
The National Museum of Fine Arts
Located in a palace from 1760 in the historic area of Valletta, The National Museum of Fine Arts was established in 1974. The museum offers a chronological experience of Maltese art, from medieval works to contemporary designs. The building itself originally served as a residence for knights of the Order of St John. Throughout the centuries, it has seen many reincarnations and has hosted high-profile guests such as Queen Elizabeth and Lord Mountbatten of Burma. This museum houses an immense collection which began in 1923 and includes precious Maltese decorative silverware, sculpture, furniture and impressive maiolica pottery dating from the Renaissance. In addition to classical works, the museum also hosts contemporary art, such as its 2010 exhibition Postage Stamp Artwork of Emvin Cremona, which revealed original stamp artwork and designs.
National Museum of Fine Arts, Il-Belt Valletta, Malta, +356 2195 4341
Heart of Gozo
Heart of Gozo aims to tell the story of Malta through unique experiences of art. Established in 1998, the ambition was to create a museum and cultural centre promoting the history of Gozo, and celebrating the architectural gem that is St George’s Basilica. Alongside the museum’s permanent collection of artefacts, there is also a space for temporary and more contemporary exhibitions. Past shows have included new graphic drawings and paintings by Paul Stellini, jarring bricolage by John Paul Azzopardi, and symbolic works and drawings by the famous local ceramist Gabriel Caruana.
Palazzo de la Salle
This is the venue of the Malta Society of Arts, one of the oldest arts societies, which was given the Palazzo de la Salle as its seat in 1923. The space is renowned for its astylar façade, extensive bare walls and distinctive circular entrance. Luckily, the MSA offers up the exhibition and music halls at the Palazzo for public cultural events. Over the years, exhibitions hosted in this impressive space have included both solo and themed shows, as well as the National Exhibition of Student Art 2014.
Palazzo de La Salle, 219 Republic Str, Valletta, Malta, +356 21244339
Another recent gallery addition to Malta’s contemporary art scene is SO Galerie. The gallery’s mission is to bring the very best of international art to Malta and to feature a broad spectrum of techniques, media and styles. The gallery boasts an extraordinary range of original artworks sourced from the artists themselves. There is also a full cultural calendar of events, which are hugely popular. The space itself is neutral and spacious, creating a haven of calm that heightens the aura of the works on display. A number of artists are featured in the gallery, including art photographer David Pisani, and sculptor and painter Liliana Fleri Soler. With charity art auctions and workshops, there is plenty to attract any art lover to SO Galerie.
SO Galerie, Triq Dun Karm, L-Iklin, Malta, +356 99424020