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This is an out­stand­ing year for cul­ture.

With Val­letta 2018 – our Cap­i­tal City be­ing the Euro­pean Cap­i­tal for Cul­ture – we have en­joyed, par­tic­i­pated in and ap­plauded hun­dreds of cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties pur­posely or­gan­ised for this mag­nif­i­cent feast of tra­di­tion, artistry and cul­ture. We are still to en­joy oth­ers un­til Val­letta passes its cul­tural reign to Plov­div in Bul­garia and Italy’s Mat­era.

I am proud that we have achieved what this Euro­pean feast is all about: we high­lighted the rich­ness and di­ver­sity of our cul­ture; we cel­e­brated our cul­tural fea­tures; we in­creased the sense of be­long­ing to a com­mon cul­tural area and fos­tered the con­tri­bu­tion of cul­ture to the devel­op­ment of our Cap­i­tal City – and be­yond.

How­ever, more than that, we also re­gen­er­ated Val­letta and, yes, breathed new life into our Val­letta’s cul­ture.

I will not ab­stain from re­peat­ing that we have given Val­letta a new lease of life. With­out doubt, and as a res­i­dent in our Cap­i­tal City, I can see a huge dif­fer­ence com­par­ing Val­letta of to­day and Val­letta of some years back. Val­letta is nowa­days thriv­ing with peo­ple en­joy­ing them­selves day and night in cul­tural but also recre­ational spheres.

We have in­vested in restor­ing palaces, im­por­tant build­ings, churches and more, help­ing to raise the in­ter­na­tional pro­file of our Cap­i­tal, and help­ing to boost tourism, wel­com­ing our visi­tors to a re­vived City of Cul­ture.

With sheer pride, I can say that to­mor­row we will see an­other ad­di­tion to our cul­tural haven that Valetta is.

MUŻA - the cho­sen name for Malta’s new mu­seum of art and flag­ship project for Val­letta’s Euro­pean Cap­i­tal City of Cul­ture ti­tle. A project that is a na­tional-com­mu­nity art mu­seum, the first of its kind, in a his­toric site within the Cap­i­tal City of Val­letta.

Housed in the newly re­stored Au­berge d’Italie, the mu­seum will give visi­tors at MUŻA an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence var­i­ous au­dio-vis­ual ex­pe­ri­ences that will aid them to un­der­stand and per­haps even dis­cover the muse of the artist as they worked on their par­tic­u­lar art piece. This is part and par­cel of the mu­seum’s main mis­sion – that of mak­ing art ac­ces­si­ble and un­der­stand­able to ev­ery­one.

And part and par­cel of what we be­lieve in and have also made as one of our mis­sions for this sec­tor, ac­ces­si­bil­ity to art and cul­ture for all.

The for­mer home to the Na­tional


Val­letta is nowa­days thriv­ing with peo­ple en­joy­ing them­selves day and night in cul­tural but also recre­ational spheres

Art col­lec­tion was not ad­e­quate and left much to de­sire. Whole pe­ri­ods of art were not dis­played for lack of space and were not ac­ces­si­ble, hid­den away, but cared for, in lock­ers and other spa­ces.

Dis­cus­sions led to the de­ci­sion that our art col­lec­tion de­served bet­ter and needed a big­ger ex­hi­bi­tion space. Au­berge d’Italie was the choice.

Restor­ing this new home was not an easy task. It was built at var­i­ous stages in the late 16th cen­tury to house the Knights of the Or­der of St John from the langue of Italy, and it orig­i­nally had a Man­ner­ist de­sign by Giro­lamo Cas­sar and sev­eral other ar­chi­tects. The build­ing con­tin­ued to be mod­i­fied through­out the course of the 17th cen­tury, with the last ma­jor ren­o­va­tion be­ing car­ried out in the 1680s dur­ing the mag­is­tracy of Gre­go­rio Carafa, giv­ing the build­ing a Baroque char­ac­ter.

Af­ter the Or­der was ex­pelled from Malta in 1798, the Au­berge was used for a num­ber of pur­poses, hous­ing a mil­i­tary head­quar­ters, an of­fi­cers’ mess, a mu­seum, a school of arts, a court­house, the Gen­eral Post Of­fice and var­i­ous govern­ment de­part­ments. Un­til re­cently, it housed the Malta Tourism Au­thor­ity.

Vis­it­ing the var­i­ous stages of restora­tion, I dis­cov­ered, along with the able re­stor­ers, ex­cit­ing finds prac­ti­cally in all cor­ners of the build­ing. Long hid­den ar­chi­tec­tural gems started com­ing to light – all adding to the rich­ness of the build­ing. I shared the joy of the re­stor­ers and cu­ra­tors when a find gave par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est serv­ing as an­other link to the writ­ten his­tory of the build­ing.

This mu­seum had our at­ten­tion from the very be­gin­ning.

What has been so far a Na­tional dream has now be­come MUŻA.

MUŻA is not just an­other art mu­seum. Much re­search has gone not only into how ex­hibits will be dis­played, but also into the choice of the colour pal­ette, ma­te­rial used, and the brand­ing of the whole project. A visit to this art mu­seum will not only be an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence for the vis­i­tor, but one that will se­duce the vis­i­tor to ex­plore more.

I will tempt you with one ex­am­ple. A high­light will be the re-cre­ation of the mon­u­ment “the un­known sol­dier” by Mal­tese sculp­tor An­to­nio Sciortino. This will be the first time ever that one may ap­pre­ci­ate the scale and am­bi­tion of this project, which has so far only ex­isted on pa­per and as a plas­ter model. Other AVs will range from an ex­plo­ration of the artist at work to in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences, which would al­low visi­tors to be crit­i­cal, ask ques­tions and per­haps even elicit their muse and cre­ativ­ity to cre­ate some­thing over their own.

This is the artist’s cul­tural tem­ple as much as it will be the art afi­cionado’s par­adise. In fact, over the past year we have been col­lab­o­rat­ing with var­i­ous pro­fes­sional artists to cre­ate over 21 au­dio-vis­ual ex­pe­ri­ences.

Noth­ing has been spared in the mak­ing of MUŻA. Take the colour range cho­sen – it com­ple­ments the colour of lo­cal stone and its complementary Mediter­ranean en­vi­ron­ment. Ma­te­ri­als used for the in­ter­pre­ta­tion pan­els com­ple­ment the newly re­in­stated floor in lo­cal hard­stone. A con­tem­po­rary ma­te­rial in use for the first time in Malta com­ple­ments the earth colour pal­ette for MUŻA.

Weath­ered bronze door­ways in Si­cily were a source of in­spi­ra­tion for the colour of the win­dows and aper­tures on Mer­chants street. A sim­i­lar colour also fea­tured on door­ways and aper­tures in nine­teenth-cen­tury Val­letta and very many paint­ings and wa­ter­colours were con­sulted and ex­am­ined for this pur­pose. The green coloured aper­ture com­ple­ment the dark green coloured bust of Grand­mas­ter Gre­go­rio Carafa and the grey-white mar­ble es­cutcheon on the main façade.

MUŻA has also caught the at­ten­tion of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. Pre­sen­ta­tions made in Rome, Naples, Salerno, Cam­bridge, Le­ices­ter and other cities were ap­plauded – giv­ing the art mu­seum a strong base to be a key player in the in­ter­na­tional art scene.

With MUŻA we usher in a

Noth­ing has been spared in the mak­ing of MU|A - Malta’s new mu­seum of art and flag­ship project for Val­letta’s Euro­pean Cap­i­tal City of Cul­ture ti­tle

new era in the event­ful his­tory of mu­se­ums in Malta. This na­tional-com­mu­nity art mu­seum, as the project has been ac­knowl­edged far and wide, places the pub­lic at the very cen­tre of the mu­seum ex­pe­ri­ence. It is the very same pub­lic which be­comes the true in­hab­i­tant of the mu­seum in­sti­tu­tion where he feels at home to en­gage with his past to shape his fu­ture.

With MUŻA we usher Malta’s sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion mu­seum in­sti­tu­tion that is Euro­pean at heart in the ways and means it ac­knowl­edges the roots of a his­toric past and projects them into the fu­ture. It is also a con­tem­po­rary cen­tre of learn­ing where the pub­lic seeks in­spi­ra­tion that is uniquely branded with the Mal­tese word MUŻA.

This is our con­tri­bu­tion to the Euro­pean legacy of our mo­men­tous Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture ti­tle. We look for­ward to a bright fu­ture for MUŻA as it con­tin­ues to live up to its as­pi­ra­tions and am­bi­tions of be­ing at the fore­front of in­no­va­tion, spear­head in­ter­na­tion­al­i­sa­tion through high qual­ity pro­gram­ming and give back to the com­mu­nity that dose of in­spi­ra­tion which is MUŻA.

I au­gur that all those who have our art at heart, jot down in their per­sonal cal­en­dar a visit to MUŻA, which is def­i­nitely a must visit in the weeks to come.

The project is par­tially funded by the EU, as part of the Euro­pean Re­gional Devel­op­ment Fund and the Euro­pean Struc­tural and In­vest­ment Fund 20142020.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent | Fri­day 9 Novem­ber 2018

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